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Staff Picks: Our Favorite Hardware p.25 The Best Instant Messaging Programs p.20 


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I In Plain Fnnlkh *J 

In Plain English 


ve Performance, Speed, Stability 

Uninstal _ 

Stubborn Software 


Add & COMPLETELY Remove Programs 

What To Do When Your 

Browser's Been Hijacked P 76 
Warranty Woes: 

Who's Got You Covered? p.33 

Organize & Use 

Your Very Own Mail Groups 


NEW! Readers' Tips: 

Our Readers Chime In p.36 

Music On The Move: 

Satellite Radio p.37 


Kensington's iPod 
Transmitter/Charger p.18 

How To: 

Share A Printer 

Back Up The Registry 

PC Project: 

Get A New 
Power Supply p.40 

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I In Plain Fnnlkh *J 


In Plain English 

Volume 17 . October 2006 . Issue 10 

This Month's Cover Story: 

News & Notes 

7 Tech News & Notes 

14 News From The Help Desk: 
Our Most Common Tech Calls 

We tell you the most common 
problems we're hearing about 
each month and provide straight- 
forward solutions for each one. 


16 Tech Diaries 

Our Smart Computing colum- 
nists spent some quality time 
with computer and computer- 
related hardware and software 
to get beyond the benchmark 
scores, statistics, and marketing 
hype. Find out what they liked 
and disliked about their choices. 

20 CU On IM: Catch The 
Instant Messaging Wave 

We review some of the most 
popular IM apps. 

23 Software Reviews 



Corel WordPerfect 

Office X3 


Checklist 3.0 


Security: Aura 


Staff Picks 

Our writers and editors select 
their favorite hardware. It's your 
one- stop shop for the latest and 
greatest goodies and gadgets. 


Copyright 2006 by Sandhills Publishing Company. Smart Computing is a 
registered trademark of Sandhills Publishing Company. All rights reserved. Reproduction 
of material appearing in Smart Computing is strictly prohibited without written permission. 
Printed in the U.S.A. GST # 123482788RT0001 Smart Computing USPS 005-665 (ISSN 
1093-4170) is published monthly for $29 per year by Sandhills Publishing Company, 131 
West Grand Drive, P.O. Box 85380, Lincoln, NE 68501 . Subscriber Services: (800) 424- 
7900. Periodicals postage paid at Lincoln, NE. POSTMASTER: Send address changes 
to Smart Computing, P.O. Box 85380, Lincoln, NE 68501. 


Windows Tips & Tricks 

27 Windows XP: 

Microsoft PowerToys For Windows XP 

Customize your WinXP system with PowerToys. 


29 Windows: Back Up The Windows Registry 

Although daunting to create, a Registry backup can save the day. 

31 Windows 98: Network Printer Sharing In Windows 98 

Set up your printer to pull double duty. 


General Computing 

33 Warranty Woes 

If the software on your brand-new PC isn't playing nicely, 
who's responsible for straightening it out? 

36 Readers' Tips 

Our readers share some great ways to solve problems 
and accomplish PC-related tasks. 

37 Music On The Move 

Taking your digital music on the go might be easier than you 
think — bring your tunes along wherever life happens to take you. 

40 PC Project: Replace Your Power Supply 

How do you know when it's time to start thinking about replacing your PC's 
power supply unit? Follow our 10 easy steps to power up your PC. 

Plugged In 

43 Naked DSL: It's Not What It Sounds Like 

In some cases, naked DSL (DSL without landline telephone service) can save 
you money. But don't count on it. 

45 Let Your Fingers Do The Talking 

There's no doubt that the Internet has changed the way we communicate. As 
mail groups become increasingly popular, 
learn how you can connect with others who 
share your interests. 

47 Web Tips 

48 Find It Online 

50 Mr. Modem's Desktop: 

Flatten The PC Learning Curve 

In which Mr. Modem, author of several 

books — none of which has won the Pulitzer 

Prize — and co-host of the weekly "PC Chat" 

radio show, offers useful tips and advises (well, begs, actually) readers not to 

throw their PCs out the window. 

Tech Support 

76 What To Do When . . . 

Your Browser's Been Hijacked 

Take back control of your browser. 

78 Watch Your Back 

BackWeb can be good news or bad 
news. Learn to deal with it when it falls 
into the latter category. 

80 Examining Errors 
82 Fast Fixes 
84 Q&A 

You have questions. We have answers. 
The Smart Computing staff responds to 
your queries. 

88 FAQs 

Answers to users' most common ques- 
tions about laptops. 

89 Action Editor 

Can't seem to get a response from a 
vendor or manufacturer? If you need 
help, we're here for you. 

90 Tales From The Trenches: 
Keeping It Real 

Real-world tech support advice from 
PC guru Gregory Anderson. This 
month Greg deals with Real Player. 

Quick Studies 

66 Microsoft Word 2002 

Locate Misplaced Documents 

67 Microsoft PowerPoint 2002 

Seven Common Presentation Pitfalls 

68 Corel WordPerfect 1 1 

Paragraph Spacing & Indentation 

69 Corel Paint Shop Pro 9 

Troubleshoot Installation Problems 

70 Browsers 

Use Google Notebook To Remember 
Important Details 

71 Microsoft Excel 2002 

Using Comments 

72 Quick Tips 


92 Editorial License 

Our editor gives his somewhat skewed perspective on a variety of technology- 
related issues. This month he worries about gerbils. Because someone has to. 

74 Windows XP Media Center 
Edition 2005 

WMCE boasts some impressive capa- 
bilities, but it may not be for everyone. 

October Web-Only Articles 

Smart Computing subscribers may read the following articles at 


For all the latest product reviews, visit the Hardware Reviews area at ( 

PC Operating Instructions 

Linux: Ubuntu: The Fun Of Debian Without The Hassles 
A look at an up-and-coming distro. 

Quick Studies 

Adobe Photoshop Elements 

Elements Of Digital Editing 


Protect Parental Controls 

Roxio PhotoSuite 7 Platinum 

Troubleshoot The Capture Utility 

Microsoft Access 2002 

Using Criteria With Dates In Queries 

Adobe InDesign CS2 

Know Page's Status During Design 

Microsoft Works 2005 

Troubleshoot Photo Printing 

Microsoft Money 

Using Money's Investment Education Features 

Print Shop 

Create Full-Featured Calendars, Part III 


Track Your Tasks With Toodledo 


Create User-Friendly Child Windows 


Troubleshoot Rules In Outlook Express 

«S> Adobe Photoshop Elements 4.0 

Adobe Photoshop Elements 

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Overview Organize 

Edit and Enhance Photos 

Adobe Photoshop Elements 


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On page 88 of our September issue, we misstated the base price of Vonage's VoIP ser- 
vice as $29.99. Service is actually $24.99 plus any applicable taxes and surcharges. 

In the June issue (pg. 32-33) we printed the ipconfig command syntax as ipconfig 
/release and ipconfig/renew. There should be spaces before the forward slash. Readers 
should therefore type ipconfig /release and ipconfig /renew when using this command. 


Customer Service 

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Email: smartcomputing 

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Subscription Renewals 

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Advertising Staff 

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Lincoln, NE 68521 




Editor's Note: Clean Out The Junk 

In the old days of personal computing (that'd be, oh, around 1986 or so), software instal- 
lations were simple, mainly because they tended to be monolithic— one large program 
was placed somewhere on the hard drive. You copied the program from a floppy 
diskette or, if this was a very sophisticated application, from a series of floppies. That's it. 
You were finished. It took about 30 seconds, and we never ran into a problem. (Well, 
almost never.) 

Uninstalling was even easier: You just erased the one large program and any data files 
you might have created using the program. 

Times change, though. Today's applications are much more complex and sophisti- 
cated, as are the operating systems on which they run. When you install a program today, 
you're creating multiple folders, copying files to dozens of places on a drive, modifying a 
large Windows database (the Registry) that keeps track of your system and what's on it, 
and more. 

Of course, we must then add that complexity to the multitude of possible configura- 
tions and then add to that the potential application conflicts. The result? All too often, a 
giant mess, especially when we ignore the rules we should be following when we install 
or uninstall anything. 

Face it, these days we take a risk whenever we install or uninstall anything, whether it's 
hardware or software. (And sloppy installers from vendors in a hurry to make a buck 
don't help things any.) This issue's focus on safely adding and removing software and 
hardware will help you minimize that risk. 

Rod Scher, Publication Editor 

Now Available On Newsstands . . . 

Computer Power User* Intel Wants Back Inside 

This month, we take an up-close look at Intel's new flagship CPU family, Core 
2, including chip reviews, a detailed white paper on the Core 2 architecture, 
and a passel of mobo and DDR2 benchmarks. 

PC Today * Nokia Smartphones & Windows Vista 

Most cell phone users in the United States have owned a Nokia phone, but few 
have even seen a Nokia smartphone. This month, PC Today looks at why that is 
and how that might change. The issue also includes a feature article about 
Windows Vista with a special focus on its mobile features. 

First Glimpse * CE Best Buys 

Our checking accounts may feel as though our economic growth has stalled, 
but we love our electronics more than ever. Put these two trends together and 
one thing becomes obvious: Finding bargain buys and other ways of getting the 
most for our money is a top shopping priority. This month, we'll show you 
how to get the best deals on digital cameras, HDTVs, MP3 players, and more. 

Reference Series * The Incredible iPod 

If you own an iPod, are thinking about an iPod, or are just curious about this new 
technological icon, you owe it to yourself to read this Reference Series issue. 
Whether you're an iPod newbie or an old hand, we tell you everything you need 
to know about how to buy, use, enhance, update, hack, and troubleshoot every- 
one's favorite Apple device. 



Editorial Staff: 

Ronald D. Kobler / Rod Scher / 
Sally Curran / Linne Ourada / 
Corey Russman / Christopher 
Trumble / Calvin Clinchard / 
Katie Sommer / Katie Dolan / 
Raejean Brooks / Michael Sweet / 

Nate Hoppe / Trista Kunce / 
Sheila Allen / Joy Martin / Vince 

Cogley / Ashley Finter / Tara 
Simmons / Leah Houchin / Marty 
Sems / Blaine Flamig / Kylee Dickey 
/Josh Gulick / Andrew Leibman / 
Jennifer Johnson / Nathan Lake / 
Holly Zach/ Barbara Ball/ 
Sarah Gabelman 

Web Staff: 

Dorene Krausnick / Laura Curry / 
Kristen Miller 

Subscription Renewals:: 

Connie Beatty / Matt Boiling / 

Patrick Kean / Charmaine Vondra / 

Miden Ebert / Kathy DeCoito / 

Stephanie Contreras 

Art & Design: 

Lesa Call / Fred Schneider / 
Carrie Benes / Ginger Falldorf / 
Sonja Warner / Aaron Weston / 
Aaron D. Clark / Lori Garris / 
Jason Codr / Andria Schultz / 
Erin Rodriguez / Lindsay Anker 

Sales & Marketing: 

Mark Peery / Grant Ossenkop / 

Liz Kohout / Bob Chester / 
Marcy Gunn / Kelly Richardson / 

Eric Cobb /Jen Clausen / 

Scot Banks / Ashley Hannant / 

Travis Brock / Lindsay Albers / 

Lana Matic / Jeff Ashelford / 

Brynn Burtwistle / Toni Hinn 


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Technology News & Notes 

Compiled by Christian Perry 
Illustrated by Lori Garris 


For Sale: An Unofficial Wi-Fi Standard 
With No Lifetime Guarantee 

So what if the 802.1 In Wi-Fi 
standard isn't yet an official 
specification? That's not stopping 
vendors from placing the tech- 
nology in consumer products. In 
fact, Dell recently announced that 
it's now selling notebooks that use 
802.1 In. However, experts worry 
that consumers boarding the early 
train could be stuck with outdated 
technology when the standard 
arrives in the station and becomes 
officially ratified. 

In the works for several years, 
802.1 In represents the successor 
to 802.1 lg, today's most popular 
standard for home wireless net- 
works. Although many users claim 
satisfaction with the performance 
of 802.1 lg, the 802.1 In standard is 
certainly tempting, especially con- 
sidering it promises throughput 
of up to 540Mbps (megabits per 
second) and, according to some 
reports, could be more than 10 
times faster than 802.1 lg. Perhaps 
more importantly, 802.1 In fea- 
tures greater operating range than 

current standards, which could 
prove useful for consumers look- 
ing to connect to their home 
networks from greater distances 
around the house or for traveling 
hotspot users tired of flaky con- 
nections at coffee shops and other 
wireless -enabled locations. 

In July, Dell announced that the 
Dell 1500 Draft 802.1 In dual-band 
wireless card was immediately 
available for all of its XPS mobile 
systems and select Inspiron note- 
books. The company explained 
that that the card supports data 
rates up to 270Mbps, vs. the max- 
imum of 54Mbps for 802. 1 lg 
technology, and that the card is 
certified to provide backward com- 
patibility with 802. llg, 802.11b, 
and 802.11a standards. 

According to a news release issued 
by Dell, "With increased through- 
put and greater range, 802.1 In 
wireless technology easily manages 
challenging tasks that can bog down 
a wireless network, such as multi- 
user, graphic-intensive gaming, 

high- definition video streaming, or 
transferring large data or multi- 
media files. Users can also experi- 
ence greater mobility, connecting to 
the wireless network in areas that 
may have formerly been out of 
range, such as porches and decks." 

However, the fancy technology in 
the $59 card might not be long for 
this world, according to experts. 
"Early drafts of IEEE standards such 
as 802.1 In are subject to substantial 
changes before being made final 
and official," wrote Ars Technica's 
Anders Bylund. "It may be tempt- 
ing to take the current draft as 
gospel . . . but then you have to 
have a plan for what to do when the 
standard changes. When, not if." 

Although the standard will work 
on current wireless networks, the 
final specification could render 
current draft hardware unusable 
with certain finalized products, 
and there's no guarantee that firm- 
ware updates will transfer any 
changes between now and then to 
the draft hardware. I 

Smart Computing / October 2006 7 



Future Storage Goes Holographic 

Even as Blu-ray and HD DVD (high-def- 
inition DVD) are poised to transfer 
computers to the next generation of 
high-capacity storage, experts already 
are looking ahead to other tech- 
nologies that could put current, 
seemingly impressive formats to 
shame. Perhaps the most fasci- 
nating of these is holograph- 
ic storage, and in particular, 
the HVD (holographic versa- 
tile disc). 

Still in experimental stages, 
HVD technology combines 
two lasers: one that reads from 
a holographic layer on the disc 
and another that reads from an 
aluminum layer on the disc. In 
essence, the technology allows data to 
be stored and read in three dimensions, 
which ramps up the storage capacity to levels 

far beyond what Blu-ray and HD DVD can 
offer. Whereas the average Blu-ray disc 
holds 25GB, HVDs could boast capac- 
ities of up to 3.9TB (terabytes) of 
data. However, early HVDs hold 
up to 300GB, and there's no of- 
ficial standard for the tech- 
nology to date. 

HVDs aren't the only 
holographic game in town. 
InPhase Technologies has al- 
ready developed products 
based on holographic tech- 
nology and recently show- 
cased drives that record 300GB 
on a single disc and feature a 
transfer rate of 160Mbps. These 
holographic drives are expected to 
ship to OEMs (original equipment 
manufacturers) in the fourth quarter of 
this year. I 


Open Video Promises Greater Compatibility 

You've heard of open-source software, but 
what about open-source hardware? The 
OGP (Open Graphics Project) is developing 
an open-source graphics card that will use 
fully published specifications and open 
source drivers. 

Started in 2004 by Timothy Miller, 
the OGP was launched to create an 
open card that would support both 
open-source software and open- 
source operating systems, such as 
Linux. Current video cards from man- 
ufacturers such as Nvidia and ATI pri- 
marily use closed drivers, which prevent 
programmers in the open-source com- 
munity from modifying them to mesh 
more effectively with open-source software. 

According to the project's Web site, 
"Open source software could benefit from [the 

active cooperation of the manufacturer of such 
a card to create better drivers and to get a 
card that meets the requirements of 
open-source software better." The card 
is not intended to be a direct com- 
petitor to companies in the main- 
stream graphic market, though the 
target market for the card includes 
enthusiasts, universities, Linux 
OEM integrators, graphics special- 
ists, and others. 

Miller created Traversal Tech- 
nology as a nonprofit corporation to 
build hardware based on specifica- 
tions created by the OGP. Accord- 
ing to reports at press time, Miller 
expected Traversal to ship an FPGA 
(Field-Programmable Gate Array) -based 
prototyping board by September. I 

8 October 2006 / 



Web Cam Video Worth Watching 

If video clips created with your Web cam look grainier than 
the sand at the local beach, perhaps it's time to step up to 
the QuickCam Ultra Vision ($129;, a 
Web cam from Logitech that promises "true-to-life" video. 

The QuickCam Ultra Vision features five large 
lenses made entirely of glass, unlike the 
plastic lenses usually found in cheaper Web 
cams. The camera also includes chrome 
details and two buttons for users to take 
snapshots or launch a mirror video 
window to check themselves before making 
a video call. A wide-format, 1.3-megapixel 
sensor delivers video at up to 640 x 480 pixels, 
and a 4-megapixel camera for taking still pictures is 
also included. 

Logitech says the camera can capture more light thanks 
to an fl.6 aperture setting, which is far below the f-stop set- 
tings of 2 or greater found in most other Web cameras. This 
increased light can help improve image detail in dimly lit 
areas or in areas where light is coming from behind or to 
the side of the camera. Logitech's RightLight 2 technology 

automatically changes the camera's video settings de- 
pending on the environment. 

In the sound department, the QuickCam Ultra includes 
Logitech's RightSound technology, which combines a built- 
in microphone with acoustic echo -cancellation software, 
allowing users to make video calls 
without wearing a headset. 

The Logitech QuickCam 
Ultra Vision seeks to 
eliminate typical grainy Web 
cam video by integrating 
five large glass lenses that 
boost video quality. 


Intel Unwraps High-Perf ormance Core 2 Duo 

Recently, we reported on new chip technologies from 
AMD, but Intel isn't sitting idly by and letting its com- 
petitor steal this year's processor headlines. On the contrary, 
the chip giant has introduced its Core 2 Duo chips, 
which feature increased performance and more effi- 
cient power consumption over its Pentium D chips. 

Previously code-named Conroe, the Core 2 
Duo represents a landmark of sorts for Intel, 
which has struggled in recent years to match 
the performance of AMD -designed proces 
sors. But with reviews pouring in on the 
Core 2 chips, it appears Intel could finally 
be back on top, and the chips' ingenious 
microarchitecture is the primary driver 
behind that shift. 

Pentium processors broke instruc 
tions into smaller pieces so that the 
processors could handle them simul- 
taneously, but the Core 2 Duo (and 

the faster Core 2 Extreme) actually combines instructions into 
one piece and executes it at once, allowing for more efficient 
utilization of data. Another feature is the chip's Advanced 
Smart Cache, in which both cores on the chip share the L2 
cache (a stunning 4MB of it), ensuring that 
none of the cache is wasted. 
On the power effi- 
ciency side, Intel says 
the chips feature a 
40% power output over 
Pentium chips, and a 
40% decrease in actual 
power usage. I 

Intel's Core 2 Duo chips feature 
increased performance and more 
efficient power consumption than its 
Pentium D chips. 

Smart Computing / October 2006 9 



Control Your Emails Ultimate Destination 

Ever worry about what's going to happen with email 
messages after you send them? For example, you may 
not want recipients to print the emails and tack them all 
over town or forward the emails to everyone in their hefty 
address books. With Essential Taceo ($59; www.essential, a Microsoft Outlook plug-in from Essential 
Security Software, you'll feel a little more secure about 
those emails after you click the Send button. 

Designed as an email- and document-security utility, 
Essential Taceo works by placing a toolbar in Outlook that 
lets users send secure messages by simply clicking a Send 
Secure button. The Send Secure feature encodes the message 
(or attachment) in ECC (Error-Correcting Code) format. 
The recipient can view the message by double- clicking the 
ECC message or attachment using the Taceo Viewer, a free 
download available at the company's Web site. 

The encryption format can be applied to a wide variety of 
file formats, including Microsoft Office files, Adobe PDF 
(Portable Document Format) files, TIFF (Tagged Image File 
Format) files, JPEG (Joint Photographic Experts Group) files, 
GIF (Graphics Interchange Format) files, and others. With 
different usage permissions, users can prevent unauthorized 
forward and printing of email messages and documents, pre- 
vent editing (no cutting, copying, or pasting), and even set 
expiration times and dates on the messages and files. I 

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With Essential Taceo, you can choose which of your email recipients can 
print or forward messages. You also can configure messages to expire. 



Why doesn't my USB key drive ap- 
pear in my list of drives? 

Check that Windows XP isn't 
trying to assign the device a drive 
letter that's already in use. Make sure 
you're logged in as an administrator 
or as a user with administrative priv- 
ileges and then right- click My Com- 
puter on your Desktop and click 
Manage. Click the plus sign (+) be- 
side Storage and then click Disk 
Management. If your key drive has a 
drive letter that's the same as the 
letter on another drive, right-click 
the drive listing, click Change Drive 
Letter And Paths, click Change, and 
assign a letter that's not in use. 

How can I eliminate dark patches on 
my LCD? 

Although many instances of dark 
patches and other abnormalities on 
LCDs can't be fixed, some users are 
able to eliminate the patches by ad- 
justing the white balance settings on 
the monitor. 

My USB wireless keyboard (or 
mouse) isn't responding. 

If you are using a USB hub, 
you can try unplugging the USB 
cable and then try connecting it 
to a different USB port. If you con- 
tinue to have problems, try con- 
necting the cable directly to a USB 

port on your PC. If you're already 
using a PC USB port, connect the 
cable to a different USB port on 
your PC. 

My CPU is showing the wrong speed 
on the POST screen. 

A slower-than-expected CPU 
speed reported on the POST (power 
on self test) screen might not be a 
problem at all. If you're using an 
AMD processor, remember that 
the company markets its chips 
using speed ratings and not the 
operating frequency — so an Athlon 
64 3500+ will actually appear as 
2.2GHz. I 

10 October 2006 / 



Wi-Fi Phone Market Now A Hotspot 

You might think you're cool when 
holding the latest Motorola RAZR 
to make and take calls — that is, until 
you see someone beside you whipping 
out a phone that connects to a nearby 
Wi-Fi network. Chances are good you'll 
be seeing that precise action more often 
in the near future, particularly with the 
recent announcement that Skype is 
selling Wi-Fi phones on its Web site. 

Skype announced four phones from 
Belkin, EdgeCore, Netgear, and SMC, 
each of which includes the Skype soft- 
ware for making calls via hotspots. 
Belkin's Wi-Fi Phone for Skype ($189.99; lets users make calls 
by simply using the on-screen color 
menu to locate contacts and view 
online availability. The phone includes 
advanced security such as WPA (Wi-Fi 
Protected Access) and WPA2 with PSK 
(phase shift keying) support and pro- 
vides compatibility with 802.11b and 
802. llg standards. 

SMC's Wi-Fi phone ($199; www features automatic registra- 
tion to Skype accounts and an easy-to- 
use contact list. This phone offers three 
hours of continuous talk time and 30 
hours of standby time from its internal 
lithium-ion battery, which lets users 
recharge from any USB port. 

Although phones specifically de- 
signed to use the Skype service are 
newer devices, Wi-Fi phones in gen- 
eral are not. Earlier this year, D-Link 
unveiled the first flip -style mobile Wi- 
Fi phone, the DPH-540, which looks 

Wi-Fi phones, such as this Skype-equipped 
model from Belkin, let users make and receive 
calls from any open access point. 

exactly like a standard cell phone but 
doesn't work with cell networks. 
Instead, the phone requires a VoIP 
(Voice over IP) service plan, which 

callers can use to make Internet-based 
calls from any open access point. The 
DPH-540 ($249.99; 
doesn't make cellular calls, but it de- 
livers cellular phone-like features, in- 
cluding text messaging, call history, 
address book entries, caller ID num- 
bers, redial, and others. 

According to a report from Info- 
netics Research, the worldwide Wi-Fi 
phone market increased 116% be- 
tween 2004 and 2005 to $125.5 mil- 
lion, and the market will more than 
double this year. In fact, the firm ex- 
pects Wi-Fi phone revenue to double 
or almost triple every year through 
2009, when it predicts the worldwide 
market to hit $3.7 billion. 

"Single-mode Wi-Fi VoIP hand- 
sets continue to penetrate the enter- 
prise market, and with D-Link, 
Linksys, and Netgear all launching 
products, we expect increasing adop- 
tion in the consumer market, too," 
said Richard Webb, directing wire- 
less analyst with Infonetics Research, 
in a statement. "But the real growth 
will come from dual-mode Wi-Fi/ 
cellular handsets. With the increased 
activity from both fixed and mobile 
operators to deliver dual-mode ser- 
vices to the mass market, often as 
part of a more far-reaching fixed- 
mobile convergence strategy, the 
long-term forecast for dual-mode 
Wi-Fi/cellular handsets is strong, as- 
suming these handsets come down in 
price to sub- 100 dollars or euros." II 


"I think this is a great example of people using new 
technology to solve a problem that doesn't exist." 

— Laura Champine, home products analyst for Morgan Keegan, offers her take on 

washers and dryers that connect to home wireless networks to send alerts to users 

via their mobile phones, computers, and televisions. 

(Source: AP) 

Smart Computing / October 2006 11 



lips**; ^Symantec 








\ computer. Solve problems 

Includes; Norton Antivirus™ / Norton Utilities™ / Norton GoBack™ 

Checklt* Diagnostics / System Optimizer 


n GoBack™ 
System Optimizer 

Symantec's NortonTM SystemWorks 2006 • MSRP: $69.99 • 

Enjoy A Fine-Tuned Computer 

Symantec's Norton SystemWorks 
2006 is a multipurpose solution that 
prevents many common problems, 
keeping your computer healthy and 
running smoothly. And if trouble does 
occur, it's there to help you recover. 

A lot can go wrong with com- 
puters — systems slow down, data gets 
accidentally deleted, viruses attack — 
and Norton SystemWorks can stop 
many of these problems before they 
occur. To keep your system running 
smoothly, it rearranges files for fast ac- 
cess, finds and repairs broken 
Windows Registries, and removes 

Internet clutter. Its antivirus protec- 
tion — the most trusted on the 
planet* — safeguards your computer 
against damaging viruses, worms, 
Trojan horses, and dangerous spy- 
ware. And to keep your data and set- 
tings intact, it constantly tracks 
changes to your system and files. That 
means you won't have to worry about 
losing your work, even if you forget to 
save changes to a document. 

No matter how many precautions 
you take, problems can still occur. 
And with Norton SystemWorks, you 
don't have to turn to more "techie" 

friends or family when this happens. 
Whether you need to remove a virus, 
repair a Windows glitch, or rescue 
damaged files, Norton SystemWorks 
can help you solve your problem and 
get you up, running, and enjoying 
your computer in no time. 

^Top-selling antivirus software product from 
December 2000 through May 2005 based on the 
NPD Group's retail Top Selling Business 
Software list. 

^ Symantec 



JVC's Everio G Series: GZ-MG37US & GZ-MG505US 
MSRP: $799 (GZ-MG37US); $1,299 (GZ-MG505US) • 

No Tape. No Disc. It's A Hard Disk Drive. 

Everio is designed to eliminate any 
worries you might have when you're 
using your camcorder. Just keep on 
shooting, because the built-in large 
capacity hard drive easily stores hours 
and hours of your video inside a light- 
weight compact camcorder. You can 
also shoot thousands of digital still im- 
ages, so whether you're at home or 
on-the-go, you'll always be ready to 
record or play back your memories. 

Advantages Of A 
Hard Disk Camcorder: 

• The longest recording times with 
the large capacity built-in hard 
drive, so you can shoot hours of 
video. Now you can record events 
such as vacations, soccer games, and 
more without worry. 

No cost for or need to buy addi- 
tional recording media. No tape or 
disc is required. The Everio G Series 
provides an all-in-one solution, en- 
suring no interruption during long 
time recordings, so you won't miss 
a moment. No media to lose! 

Direct access to scenes you want. No 
need to fast forward or rewind. Just 
click the thumbnail image and watch 
your memories come to life. Makes 
sifting through hours and hours of 
accumulated footage a breeze. 

No risk of erasing previous record- 
ings by mistake. You won't ever 
record over those once-in-a-lifetime 
events. Recording starts automatically 
from the blank space on the disk. 

Easy deletion of unwanted scenes. 
So you don't have to worry about 

getting it right the first time, safely 
select and erase entire scenes in an 
instant to free up disk space. 

Simple editing is made possible in- 
side the camera, or you can create a 
detailed masterpiece with the in- 
cluded CyberLink editing software. 

With the optional Share Station 
CU-VD10 ($199), you can create a 
DVD of your memories directly 
from your Everio* camcorder, skip- 
ping the PC. 

(GZ-MG27, GZ-MG37, GZ-MG77, 



The Perfect Experience 


News From The Help Desk 

Our Most Common Tech Gills 

Compiled by Kylee Dickey 

Each month, we receive numerous technical support calls and 
email messages. Some computer problems are fairly common, 
and we find that many callers struggle to resolve the same is- 
sues. In this article, we cover four of the most common or 
timely tech support questions and provide our solution for 
each of them. 

Ql can't use the Address field in Internet Explorer. I see 
the word "Address" on the toolbar, but there's no 
field next to it. 



> Tools Help 


QBack- g g] Q _;-, / ^ Favontes ^^ 


10 ecosfi Efesesffie "ufe @3fierBcato 

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We're your Olie-Stop Shop for 

computer problem-solving. 



Computer | 

Fun Facts «, Stats: 

Full Time Blogqer 

Fun Site: 

Numbers About 

Next Months 
Articles Online 

Roxio PhotoSuite 

If you lose the Address field from Internet Explorer's toolbar, you can 
click and drag the grayed-out word "Address" back to its proper location 
at the lower-left corner of the toolbar. 

'H Digital Photography, Computer Virus, Computer Security, Com pi. 

We're your Ofie-StO 

computer probli 

If yeu still can't find an answattcn 
Tech Support Center, call us up ai 

You can ensure 
that items on the 
IE toolbar aren't 
changed in the 
future by locking 
the toolbar. 

A This is a simple problem to fix. It's also very easy to 
prevent it from happening in the future. 

To the left of the word "Address" on the toolbar, you 
should see a bar with four dots running vertically along the 
right side of the bar. Place the pointer over the bar until the 
pointer turns into a horizontal, double-headed arrow. Click 
and drag the bar to move the word "Address" to the bottom 
of the toolbar. It should appear on its own line, complete 
with the formerly missing Address field. 

To prevent the Address field from disappearing (or 
moving to a strange location on the toolbar), click the View 
menu, Toolbars, and Lock The Toolbars. 

QWhen I double-click a file, I see an error message that 
says, "This file does not have a program associated with 
it for performing this action/ 1 

A This happens when Windows doesn't know what pro- 
gram is supposed to open a specific file type. Windows 
associates file extensions, such as .DOC, .HTML, .PDF, and 
.XLS, with certain applications. In other words, when you 
double-click a file with a .DOC extension, a file association 
tells Windows to open that file (and all other DOC files) with 
Microsoft Word. When Windows can't find a file association 
for a file type, you'll see the error message mentioned above. 

To associate a file type with an application, open the 
Control Panel. In Windows 9x/Me/NT/2000, click the Start 
menu, Settings, and Control Panel. In Windows XP (Classic 
View), click the Start menu and Control Panel. In the 
Control Panel window, double- click Folder Options. Click 
the File Types tab to see a list all of the Registered File Types. 
Scroll through this list until you see the type of file you're 
trying to open. For example, if you're trying to open a file 
that has a .PDF extension, highlight PDF Adobe Acrobat 
Document. Then click the Change button. You'll see a list of 
Recommended Programs and Other Programs. Locate and 
select the program you'd like to use to open the chosen file 
type. Make sure the Always Use The Selected Program To 
Open This Kind Of File checkbox is selected and click the OK 
button. If the program you want to use is not listed, click the 
Browse button, locate the application you want to use, and 
double-click it. In WinXP, you can also click the Look For 
The Appropriate Program On The Web link to find and 
download a compatible application. Finally, make sure the 
program you want to use to open the file type appears in the 
lower half of the Folder Options window and click OK. 

14 October 2006 / 


JPEG Image 
JPEG Image 
JPEG Image 
J Script Script File 

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" " : : : '>!?:;. • ' 

£ Internet I xplora 

Microsoft Office Picture Manager 
ty Paint 

j?S) Other Programs: 
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| | 

or on your computer, you can |ggk 

OK || Cancel 

Here we are about to change the file association for JPG (Joint 
Photographic Experts Group) files. 

How can I move my Outlook Contacts from my old 
computer to my new computer? 

A First, you'll need to export your Outlook Contacts 
from your old computer. To do this, launch Outlook, 
click File, and then click Import And Export. The Import 
And Export Wizard will appear. Highlight the Export To A 
File option from the Choose An Action To Perform list and 
click Next. Select Personal Folder File (.PST) to create a file 
that your new PC's copy of Outlook can read. 

If your new computer runs a program other than 
Outlook, select Comma Separated Values (Windows) in- 
stead of Personal Folder File (.PST). Most email applications 
can import CSV (comma- separated values) files. After you 
select the type of file to export, click Next. Select the folder 
you want to export (in this case, the Contacts folder) and 
enter a new name for the file in the File Name field. Browse 
to a location, such as your My Documents folder, where you 
can save this exported file. Press ENTER to proceed. 

After you have exported the file, burn it to a CD-R (CD- 
recordable), copy it to an external drive, or save it to some 
other form of media. You also may copy the file over a 
shared network if your two computers are networked. 

Save the file to your new computer's hard drive. Launch 
Outlook on your new system and click File, Open, and 
Outlook Data File. Browse to the file you just saved and 
then click OK to open it. 

If you use Outlook Express on your new system, you can 
import a CSV file (rather than a PST file as described 
above). Launch Outlook Express on your new system. Click 
File and then click Import. In the resulting dialog box, se- 
lect Other Address Book and then Text File (Comma 
Separated Values). Click the Import button, browse to the 
CSV file you exported from your old computer, select it, 
and click Open and Next. 

, What is a phishing scam? I've heard a lot about these, 
and I don't want to be a victim of fraud. 

A Phishing is a type of scam that uses deceptive email mes- 
sages to try to trick computer users into sending personal 
information to the phisher. Usually, a phishing message is 
sent through a bulk email application that lets the phisher 
send the message to many people at once. The message ap- 
pears to be from a well-known company or organization. In 
most cases, the message threatens account suspension or legal 
action if the recipient doesn't click a link and enter informa- 
tion such as an account password, credit card number, or 
Social Security number. Although this Web site may look le- 
gitimate, it is actually the phisher's site, and the unsuspecting 
user is forfeiting personal information to someone with mali- 
cious intent. 

To avoid phishing scams, do not click links in un- 
solicited email messages. These links may lead you to 
phishing sites, and if you click the link, keyloggers or other 
malicious code may be downloaded to your system. If you 
have any doubt about the authenticity of an email message 
from a company or bank with which you do business, call 
the customer service number. If the message really is from 
the company, the representative should be able to handle 
the issue over the phone. 

You can find much more information about phishing 
scams by visiting the Smart Computing Tech Support 
Center ( I 

Feature Package Topics 

Each Smart Computing issue includes tips, reviews, and in- 
formation about a variety of topics. However, each issue 
also has a featured group of articles about a selected topic. 
Below is a list of the Feature Packages from the previous 
year. As a Smart Computing subscriber, you have access to 
all of our archived articles at 

October 2005: 

Get The Most From Your CDs & DVDs 

November 2005: 

Solve The Wireless Puzzle 

December 2005: 

Our Annual Holiday Buyer's Guide 

January 2006: 

Troubleshoot! Solve Software Problems 

February 2006: 

What's Slowing Down Your PC? 

March 2006: 

Reinstall Your Operating System 

April 2006: 

Protect Yourself Against 
Viruses & Spyware 

May 2006: 

Vista vs. XP 

June 2006: 

How To Restore Your PC 

July 2006: 

Repair & Speed Up Your System 

August 2006: 

Fix & Avoid Photo Problems 

September 2006: 

Clean Up Your Computer 

Smart Computing / October 2006 15 

This Month In Reviews 

iPodsOnThe Road 

With A Twist 

Contributing Writers 

Chad Denton 

Joshua Gulick 

Kylee Dickey 

Marty Sems 


Jennifer Farwell 

Andrew Leibman 

Vince Cogley 

Next Month 

System Migration 

Not Clean Enough 

Sanitized Movies Rightly Found 
To Violate Copyright 

Chad Denton 

Send Chad your opinions at 

One of the things I like best about tech- 
nology is its ability to empower individ- 
uals. People are using digital tools to create 
and distribute new works. At times, though, 
these new works conflict with existing ones. 

Ray Lines started a company called Clean- 
Flicks (, which sells 
and rents "sanitized" (i.e., edited) versions of 
movies. For every movie CleanFlicks offers 
for rent, the company buys an original copy 
of the movie. Alternatively, customers can 
mail original copies of a movie and receive 
an edited version. This means that Clean- 
Flicks doesn't steal any business from the 


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loto |ia*-*= 



["* t\;<*K*HSK Cites* !*«:*** /*'Jx*&t 4M smflWttxa komjI. .. [j !***« I "M K4 . . 


arc the leading provider of edHcd Hollywood moviei. ovsrfOO 

net*,*, o^k*™.^. (WHTEO DVD'S I 

Hollywood studios that produce the films. 
In fact, some argue that the existence of 
CleanFlicks probably results in a few addi- 
tional sales. Despite this, U.S. District Judge 
Richard Matsch ruled in July that the com- 
pany's business violated copyright laws. 

Considering that CleanFlicks makes and 
distributes unauthorized copies of movies, it 
seems pretty clear that the company was vio- 
lating the law. A more interesting issue is 
whether we should change the law to make 
an exception for companies such as Clean- 
Flicks. One might argue this is a prime ex- 
ample of technology providing greater 
choice. Some critics of the ruling note that 
it focuses largely on protecting the integrity 

of a movie. Yet, networks edit films to 
comply with broadcast standards. Others 
claim that the ruling will eventually make it 
illegal to fast-forward through commercials. 
Some think the ruling is the end of personal 
empowerment through technology. 

I think the critics are wrong. The com- 
parison between CleanFlicks and the net- 
works would be more appropriate if the 
networks chose a movie, edited it, and 
broadcast it without obtaining the right to 
do so. Networks must negotiate for the 
right to air a movie, and a portion of that 
negotiation often concerns editing. "Saving 
Private Ryan" is one example. ABC ran the 
movie unedited on Veterans Day of 2001 
and 2002. When the Janet Jackson incident 
caused the FCC to step up enforcement in 
2004, some ABC affiliates sought permis- 
sion from the network to edit the film or 
air the film outside of primetime, but 
ABC's broadcast rights stipulated that the 
film must air unedited and uncut. 

If similarities between CleanFlicks and 
network broadcasts are misleading, the 
claims that this decision will make it illegal 
to fast-forward through commercials are 
even more ridiculous. There is a huge dif- 
ference between skipping an Old Navy 
commercial and shipping unauthorized, 
"sanitized" copies of a movie. 

Finally, this seems like an abdication of 
personal responsibility. It's not as if you 
can tell CleanFlicks what sections to edit. 
You can't even select specific editing para- 
meters. CleanFlicks decides what is and 
what is not acceptable for its customers. 

While CleanFlicks customers don't have a 
problem with this approach, there still seems 
to be a huge difference between editing a 
movie yourself and buying an unauthorized, 
edited copy. While I'd support allowing 
products that make it easier for consumers 
to edit movies for themselves, I'm not a big 
fan of CleanFlicks, and overall, I'm not too 
upset by the ruling. II 

16 October 2006 / 


Keyboard Revolution 

Surf The Web On These Unusual Boards 

Internet and media software buttons. To top 
things off, this keyboard even has three large 
LOCK LEDs that let you know when you've 
enabled CAPS, NUM, or SCROLL LOCK. I 
found that the keys are responsive and quiet. 

Joshua Gulick 

Send your comments to 

Mouse-Friendly Keyboard 



(650) 355-2467 




New Standard Keyboards 

(805) 925-2998 

Even heavy-duty geeks rarely get excited 
about keyboards. They're important, sure, 
but when you're shopping for a computer, 
you're probably much more concerned about 
the PC's memory, processor, and video 
card — in other words, the computer's com- 
ponents. When it's time to choose periph- 
erals, I'm always tempted to just grab the 
cheapest keyboard on the 
shelf, but I've learned that 
you get what you pay for. I 
recently tested two key- 
boards that offer unique, 
user-friendly designs 
(and hefty price tags). 
Both boards have USB 
connectors and support 
Windows 98 and newer OSes 
(operating systems). 

Mouse-Friendly Keyboard 

With the Mouse-Friendly Keyboard, 
Evoluent skipped the fancy scroll wheels and 
large buttons and instead opted for a much 
more useful design — it put the number pad on 
the left side of the keyboard. The left number 
pad isn't a new idea, but it's a good one. 
With a normal board, your 
J right hand reaches across 

the number pad to the 
mouse several times a day. 
Thanks to the number 
pad swap, your mouse 
sits much closer to your 
keyboard, thereby re- 
ducing your hand's trip 
to the mouse. 
When Evoluent designed the 
Mouse-Friendly Keyboard, it successfully 
walked the razor-thin tightrope any hard- 
ware designer faces: Merge your product 
with a neat design idea, but don't lose any of 
the product's important, if less exciting, tra- 
ditional features. 

The board also has a full row of number 
keys and another of F keys. The top row has 


Most of us type on QWERTY keyboard 
layouts. Some keyboard makers claim that 
this layout hinders typists rather than 
helps, and so, from time to time, a key- 
board that has a completely different layout 
will land on my desk. New Standard Key- 
boards is the latest manufacturer to let me 
test-drive such a keyboard, and I think it's 
on to something with the NSK 535 R. 

New Standard Keyboards places the keys 
in alphabetical order in two columns, so that 
E and R appear on the home row. The arrow 
keys sit at the center of the board, which 
means you can easily reach them with either 
hand. In fact, the board's design lets you 
reach many important keys with either hand. 
For example, the board has number pads on 
the left and right sides of the keyboard. 

Unfortunately, the keyboard makes up for 
its small size by combining several charac- 
ters into each key. Those number pads don't 
sit to the left and right of the letter keys — 
they sit right on the letter keys. The board 
doesn't have a row of numbers at the top, 
which means that when you need to type 
numbers, you must first press SYM-ESC. 

I don't like pressing extra keys to enable 
number pads or special characters, but I 
think those who hunt-and-peck might not 
mind the extra steps. I'm certain that they'll 
like the letter layout more than QWERTY 
boards. I found that I could easily spot letters, 
thanks to the color-coded keys. That said, 
touch-typists will probably find the wide gaps 
between keys to be very comfortable. 

Money, Money, Money 

I like both of these keyboards, but I'm not 
excited about either of these price points: 
There are plenty of keyboards at much lower 
prices out there. Sure, the cheaper keyboards 
don't have the same features, but I can spill 
coffee on two or three of them before I 
spend as much as a single Mouse-Friendly 
Keyboard costs. II 

Smart Computing / October 2006 17 

Traveling Tunes 

Kensington's Digital FM Transmitter/Auto Charger 

Unites Your iPod & Car Stereo 

Kylee Dickey 

Send your comments to 

Digital FM Transmitter/Auto 
Charger For iPod (#33185) 



(800) 235-6708 

(650) 572-2700 

When I bought a new car last year, 
it was the first time I'd had a vehicle 
without a cassette deck. As such, it was 
also the first time I couldn't use a cassette 
adapter to play my iPod's music through 
my car's stereo. I quickly learned that 
most FM transmitters have staticky audio 
or don't work very well at the preset fre- 
quencies. However, Kensington's Digital 
FM Transmitter/ Auto Charger For iPod is 
another story. 

The Device That Dares To Be Different 

Kensington's FM transmitter connects to 
the dock connector on the bottom of the 
iPod instead of to the headphone jack on 
top. The iPod's dock connector provides a 
line-level signal that is cleaner than that of 
the headphone jack. Also, unlike most FM 
transmitters, Kensington's doesn't require 
that you turn the iPod volume way 
up to listen to it through your car 
stereo. Now I don't risk blasting my 
ears after forgetting to turn the vol- 
ume back down before listening with 
my headphones. 

There are a couple of other impor- 
tant differences between this device 
and many others. First, Kensington's 
transmitter leaves the headphone jack 
free for use with accessories that connect 
through the headphone jack. Some of these 
include iPod remote controls and iPod 
voice recorders. Second, this transmitter is 
powered through your car's DC power 
source (cigarette outlet), and it also pro- 
vides power to and charges your iPod while 
you use it. 

Also, whereas many FM transmitters 
have only a limited number of stations to 
which you can tune your iPod's signal, 
Kensington's Digital FM Transmitter/ Auto 
Charger lets you select any station between 
88.1 FM and 107.9 FM. Just use the Up/ 
Down button on the transmitter's face to 

select a station. There are also three pro- 
grammable buttons to which you can as- 
sign preset radio frequencies, and the 
transmitter has a backlit display that 
makes it easy to see which station you've 
selected. I should also mention that 
Kensington included an Easter egg (a 
hidden trick) that lets you set the trans- 
mitter to 87.9 FM, a frequency that is 
open in most parts of the United States. 
Just press and hold the second and third 
preset button simultaneously. 

On The Road 

I used this FM transmitter on a recent 
road trip to California. I thought if any- 
thing would test the transmitter's ability to 
broadcast despite a crowded bandwidth, 
it would be the airwaves of southern 
California. I was surprised to find that I 
never had any trouble finding a frequency 
at which I could broadcast my iPod's music 
over my car's stereo. Not only that, but the 
audio was also much cleaner than that of 
other FM transmitters I've used. Don't get 
me wrong; the transmitter doesn't produce 
the same quality of sound as a direct, wired 
connection, but there was more bass than I 
expected to hear, and there was little to no 
static. At times, the treble was a little bit 
shrill, but overall, I was very happy with the 
Kensington transmitter's performance. 
Kensington attributes the product's audio 
quality to Aerielle wireless audio tech- 
nology ( 

This product has only a couple of weak 
points. First, because it attaches to the dock 
connector, you can only use it with iPods. 
Second, the price is high compared to 
many FM transmitters. However, I've seen 
it only recently for about $50, and most of 
the cheaper $30 or $40 transmitters cannot 
charge your iPod as Kensington's does. 

Kensington's Digital FM Transmitter/ 
Auto Charger For iPod is compatible with 
all iPods with a dock connector, has a built- 
in 48 -inch cable, and comes with a five- 
year warranty. Overall, the sound quality, 
support for all radio frequencies, and bat- 
tery-charging functionality make this FM 
transmitter well worth the money if you 
need a way to listen to your iPod's tunes in 
your car. II 

18 October 2006 / 


PC, Phone Home 

The USB Drive That's Really A Phone 

Marty Sems 

Send insights and insults 

to Marty at 


$39.99 (256MB) 


(866) 243-4357 

First of all, please let me introduce my- 
self. I've enjoyed writing for Smart 
Computing and its sister publications for 
nearly eight years. And I have a secret. 

I'm not a typical computer writer. I'm 
not an early adopter. I don't like bleeding- 
edge products that force me to waste time 
troubleshooting them — in effect, to pay for 
the privilege of beta-testing them. Mind 
you, I love to play with the newest gadgets 
here at work, but when I spend my own 
money, I prefer to buy technology that has 
had its kinks worked out. And I make good 
use of what I have before I upgrade. 

Furthermore, I'm 
^^^^^^. too stingy to buy 

any thing I don't re- 
ally need. I don't 
watch much TV, so 
my "home theater" 
is an $89 set, DVD 
and VHS players, rabbit 
ears, and a set of old PC 
speakers. And I only recently 
agreed to own (but not necessar- 
ily carry) a cell phone, just before I 
became a daddy. 
My point is that while I'll talk about 
new products and trends in this column 
each month, I won't try to convince you to 
buy something you didn't know you 
needed. And if I find anything I don't like 
about a product, I'll tell you upfront. 

The Vonage V-Phone 

Here's a perfect example of a brand-new 
gizmo that's intriguing, but not yet perfect. 
It's a USB flash memory drive with a twist: 
It turns nearly any Windows PC with a 
broadband connection into a telephone. 

Vonage's V-Phone ($39.99, plus a $9.99 
activation fee after instant rebate; www comes with headphones with 
a built-in microphone. You plug these into 
the V-Phone and insert the unit into a 
Windows 98SE/Me/2000/XP PC's USB 

port. Windows should launch some software 
preloaded on the V-Phone, displaying an on- 
screen keypad that looks like a telephone's. 
Enter the number of virtually any phone in 
the world, and the V-Phone will place the call 
over the Internet instead of a regular phone 
line. You'll probably have to tell the PC's fire- 
wall to let the V-Phone access the Internet. 

Why use something like this? Well, it's not 
limited to calling only from one PC or 
handset like some other Internet phone 
products. V-Phone calls also might be 
cheaper than ones from your cell phone or 
landline, especially if you make a lot of long- 
distance or international calls. Calling plans 
start at $14.99 per month for 500 minutes of 
calls to all 50 U.S. states, Canada, and Puerto 
Rico. A $24.99 monthly plan allows unlim- 
ited calls in the United States and to addi- 
tional countries. Taxes and fees apply, as do 
per-minute rates for other international calls. 

You can choose your V-Phone's phone 
number and area code. If anyone calls your V- 
Phone when it's not connected, its voicemail 
will take a message. There are many other 
goodies such as caller ID and 911 forwarding. 

When the V-Phone worked for me on a 
WinXP PC, it proved easy to use, and its 
sound quality was often better than a cell 
phone's. Unfortunately, its headset micro- 
phone was dysfunctional, so I had to use 
a set I already owned. My headset's two 
audio connectors wouldn't fit the V- 
Phone's single jack, so I plugged it directly 
into the microphone and speaker jacks on 
the PC's sound card. I needed to adjust the 
Sounds And Audio Devices settings in 
WinXP's Control Panel, too. 

Furthermore, the V-Phone didn't work at 
all on another WinXP computer, causing the 
PC to lock up. Vonage's online tech support 
wasn't much help. Finally, existing Vonage 
customers can't simply use a V-Phone on 
their current accounts. They'd have to pay 
full price for the V-Phone's calling plan, too. 

In short, the V-Phone is an option if 
you're a) away from home a lot, b) around 
PCs or carrying a laptop much of the time, 
and c) prone to rack up too many minutes 
on your cell phone. It takes longer to make 
a V-Phone call than to dial on a cell, but if 
you're a heavy caller, it could be worth it. 

That is, once Vonage works out the 
kinks. II 

Smart Computing / October 2006 19 


Instant Messaging 


Instant Messaging Clients 

Buying Tips 

The most important thing you 

can do before choosing an IM 

client is find out which one 

your friends, relatives, 

colleagues, and clients use. 

Choosing something different 

could leave you out of the 

messaging loop. 

Vesse-ce- Co- ;■?:;;- A:;o-s -eo 

!j - Available ▼ 

•:j □ & 

+ \\mm\ 



► ^ 

50.00 -Phone Out 

Phone In 

So Plug-ins | 

Yahoo! Music LAUNCHcast- 

Listen t. , . « | ▼ 

[ Ct R.B.E 

[ Ci Chill Out 

[ Ci My Station 

1 All Stations "1 

Yahoo! 360* - Get Started 


- Friend Updates 
-Mess aces 

Start My Page 

| Ope. | 

( Vahoo! Answers 



1 Search the web 


Instant messaging is nothing new. Real- 
time online communication has taken 
place for at least 10 years. During that time, 
the technology has matured and gained 
credibility with the wired public, which ex- 
plains why the Radicati Group forecasts the 
number of worldwide IM accounts to in- 
crease from 944 million this year to 1.4 bil- 
lion by 2010. 

Users have several options when it comes 
to choosing an IM client. The most popular 
are developed by the major online players: 
AOL, Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo!. These 
companies have the resources to create cut- 
ting-edge IM programs. More importantly, 
they have large audiences. That's vitally im- 
portant to the success of an IM client be- 
cause the industry has not adopted a 
common instant messaging protocol. As a 
result, users of Yahoo! Messenger cannot 
chat with users of AIM Triton and users of 
Windows Live Messenger cannot chat with 
users of ICQ. Such incompatibility is a 
hurdle that needs to be overcome. 

(Several of the following products were 
available in beta at press time. Final release 
editions may be available by the time you 
read this.) 

Yahoo! Messenger 8 (beta) 

Yahoo! Messenger proves that instant 
messaging is more than high-tech note 
passing. Users can swap content files, drag 
digital photos into their discussions, share 
favorite tunes with fellow conversationalists, 
videoconference for virtual face-to-face 
meetings, make free PC-to-PC voice calls to 
other Yahoo! Messenger users, and even 
make PC-to-phone calls to anywhere in the 
world at rates as low as a penny a minute. 

We liked Yahoo! Messenger. It down- 
loads and installs easily, has a friendly (if 
somewhat overloaded) interface, and auto- 
matically scanned our Microsoft Outlook 

address book to identify other Yahoo! 
Messenger users. We liked that it referred to 
our Yahoo! account preferences when es- 
tablishing itself so that it could provide 
ready access to Yahoo! Address Book, 
Yahoo! Mail, and other Yahoo! features we 
used frequently. And the best thing about 
Yahoo! Messenger is that it will soon prove 
operable with the MSN Messenger network, 
which accounts for more than 60% of all 
IM users worldwide. An agreement between 
Microsoft and Yahoo! ensured that these 
two companies will continue to handle the 
lion's share of IM well into the future. 

Our only real complaint is that technical 
assistance is limited to online support. 
Users cannot call for help if they need it. 
But then that's par for the course with free- 
ware of any kind. 

AIM Triton 7.5 (beta) 

The latest version of AOL's 
ever-popular AIM boasts all of 
the expected IM capabilities, 
including videoconferencing, 
integrated Web-based email, a built-in 
radio, and a universal address book that 
synchronizes with Microsoft Outlook and 
Outlook Express. It provides quick access to 
online gaming, AIM Pages (MySpace-like 
online profiles), on-demand video content, 
and PC-to-phone telephony. Indeed, the 
AIM Phoneline component not only pro- 
vides users with low-cost PC-to-phone 
calling, but it also includes a personal phone 
number for free unlimited incoming calls. 

Unfortunately, none of these marvelous 
features could compensate for the horrible 
experience we had trying to use Triton. The 
download went well, and the installation 
proceeded smoothly. Then we tried to log 
in to the service. Actually, we tried logging 
in a dozen times, but each time, AIM re- 
fused to validate us. Worse yet, it gave no 
reason for the refusal. The online FAQs and 
help files did not address our issue, and 
AOL provides no option for interactive 
support. The problem resolved itself two 
days later when we received a message from 
AOL asking us to verify that we had created 
a particular screen name. We understand 
the need for identify verification and tight 
security, but a two-day wait to get IM 
seems inexcusable when competing clients 

20 October 2006 / 


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can be up and running within minutes 
under identical circumstances. 

To be fair, Triton functioned just fine 
once we got it going. We liked the AIM 
Gadgets, which are plug-ins for adding 
extra IM capabilities such as message logs 
(EZLogger) and message broadcasting 
(Broadcaster). We also appreciated Triton's 
nearly universal support for mobile devices. 
Nevertheless, despite a charming interface 
and the promise of new add-ons in the fu- 
ture (including a locator feature that maps 
the locations of a user's nearest IM bud- 
dies), we could not forget our inauspicious 
introduction. Unless a user is already an 
AOL subscriber, we recommend looking 
elsewhere for IM service. 

Google Talk (beta) 

Google is just getting started in the realm 
of instant messaging. Consequently, the 
company's IM client foregoes many of the 
whiz-bang features associated with its more 
established competitors. Google Talk lacks 
support for videoconferencing and Internet 
radio, for instance. The client sticks to the 
basics of text messaging and PC-to-PC 
calls. That's one downside. Another nega- 
tive in our opinion is that users must build 
their contacts list manually, one name at a 
time. In all fairness, most of the IM clients 
in this roundup build their contact lists in 
this manner. We wish they didn't. 

On the plus side, Google Talk installs 
quickly and easily. The intuitively designed 
interface is free of clutter and — better yet — 
ads. That's good. Because Google Talk is 
built on an open-source protocol, it's com- 
patible with other third-party IM clients 
such as GAIM and Apple's iChat. Of 
course, that might not matter much if a 
user's friends all rely on Yahoo! Messenger 
or Windows Live Messenger. 

The granddaddy of all IM clients, ICQ 
has built a dedicated global fan base since 
its introduction 10 years ago. The latest 
version carries on the tradition by installing 
easily and sporting popular IM extras such 
as PC- to -phone calling, fun emoticons, and 
multiuser chatting. It has an international 
user base (the client is available in 18 lan- 
guages) and puts a heavy emphasis on 
entertainment, with a colorful interface, 
one-click access to online games and 
matchmaking services, and personal avatars 
playfully referred to as "devils." Best of all, 
ICQ is owned by AOL and is thereby com- 
patible with the AIM network. 

Minor oddities kept us from fully enjoying 
our experience with ICQ, however. The un- 
usually colorful interface is adorned with nu- 
merous icons and pop-out panels that 
distract attention from the chat window. We 
also were annoyed that the IM client was set 

Software Information 



Contact Information 


Yahoo! Messenger 8 (beta) 



(408) 349-3300 

AIM Triton 1.5 (beta) 




Google Talk (beta) 



(650) 253-0000 

ICQ 5.1 




Trillian 3.1 


Cerulean Studios 


Windows Live Messenger 



(800) 642-7676 
(425) 882-8080 

Srnrerarri ^^^^^^ 


Ease Of Use Installation 



Overall Score 

Yahoo! Messenger 8 (beta) 

AIM Triton 1.5 (beta) 

Google Talk (beta) 

ICQ 5.1 

Trillian 3.1 

Windows Live Messenger 











Smart Computing / October 2006 21 


Trillian View Window Help 


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Offline Contacts 

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Buying Tips 

Take advantage of the other 

services offered by your IM 

client developer. If you use 

Windows Live Messenger, for 

instance, consider using 

Hotmail for email and MSN as 

your home page. Doing so 

minimizes redundancy and 

optimizes efficiency. 

by default to Always On Top so that it cov- 
ered a portion of any maximized document 
or window that was also open on-screen. We 
disabled this option with minimal fuss, but it 
seemed a bit presumptuous to assume we 
would consider ICQ the most important 
program on our Desktop at all times. 

Trillian 3.1 

Trillian is an IM aggregator, functioning 
as a single interface from which users com- 
municate with various IM networks, in- 
cluding AIM, ICQ, IRC, MSN, and Yahoo!. 
Users simply create a unique connection 
for each network they want to use. In a 
realm of competing standards, Trillian rep- 
resents the perfect option, right? 

Almost. The process of setting up a new 
connection, although not difficult, does re- 
quire a certain degree of technical compe- 
tence. And while Trillian's ad-free interface 
and ability to maintain separate contact lists 
are impressive, users must be willing to 
forego some advanced functionality, most 
notably videoconferencing. For these rea- 
sons, Trillian perhaps makes sense for users 
who need to share text messages with groups 
of users on multiple networks. Users who 
want to take advantage of cutting- edge IM 
capabilities, on the other hand, should 
choose a particular network and stick with it. 

Windows Live Messenger 

With more than 60% of the global 
IM market using Microsoft software, 
the Redmond, Wash., -based company 
has once again shown it can be the best 
in any technology arena it chooses to 
enter. And it shows once again that it 
can do so by building a great product. 

Our primary gripe about Windows 
Live Messenger (formerly known as 
MSN Messenger) is that we had to 
build our contacts database one name 
at a time. This surprised us; a Micro- 
soft IM client should have imported 
our contacts from Microsoft address 
books automatically. Another minor 
complaint involves the interface, 
which is easy to navigate but very 
busy as it comes fully equipped with a 
Web search box, streaming ad con- 
tent, a pop-out display featuring the 
latest news and incoming email, and 

i * \ m& 

0.00 -Phone Out 

shortcuts for various online content such as 
personal ads, stock quotes, an eBay search 
field, and on-demand video. 

Otherwise, Windows Live Messenger is all 
good. It supports videoconferencing and file 
sharing, provides one-click access to Spaces, 
and features PC-to-PC and PC-to-phone 
calling. It has every IM innovation a user 
could want, including customizable sounds 
and the ability to display current track 
selections in Windows Media Player. As a 
Microsoft product, the IM client also merges 
seamlessly into Windows and is fully com- 
patible with Internet Explorer. Users also can 
expect Windows Live Messenger to prove 
compatible with the upcoming Windows 
Live Mail client currently in beta testing. 

The aforementioned agreement between 
Microsoft and Yahoo! will allow the compa- 
nies' IM clients to communicate with each 
other. We only wish all IM developers would 
pursue similar compatibility agreements. 

Among Friends 

With the possible exception of AIM 
Triton, any IM client in this roundup can 
provide a reliable interface from which to 
share instant messages with others. The best 
IM client, however, is the one used by the 
most people in a user's circle of relatives, 
friends, and colleagues. With that in mind, 
we chose Yahoo! Messen- 
ger to receive our Smart 
Choice designation this 
month. The program has 
impressive features. But 
more importantly — and 
thanks to its landbreaking 
agreement with Micro- 
soft — it has a network 
that reaches most IM 
users. For that, we give it 
the highest marks. II 


Messenger Contacts Actions Help 

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[ Yahoo! Answers 

by Jeff Dodd 

October 2006 

Smart Choice 

Yahoo! Messenger 8 

22 October 2006 / 

Software Reviews 


The Perfect Office? 

Corel WordPerfect 
Office X3 

$99 (Home Edition); $299 

(Standard Edition) 


(800) 772-6735 





Performance 4 
Ease Of Use 4 
Installation 5 
Documentation 5 
Price 5 
Overall Score 4.6/5 

f you've previously dismissed Corel 

WordPerfect as a Microsoft Office also- 
ran, or if you use an earlier version but have 
not upgraded, you owe it to yourself to give 
this suite a look. Not only does it have func- 
tionality you won't find in either its 
Microsoft competitor or its ancestors, but it 
packs a lot of wallop for the price. 

WP Office X3 comes in four flavors — 
Standard, Professional, Student And 
Teacher, and Home. The Home Edition 
comes with Task Manager, which gives you 
a single interface from which to access the 
seven programs the suite includes. 

Also included are a lot of useful programs 
and utilities, but some of them are a bit 
minor league. For example, it comes with 
Norton Internet Security 2006, a comprehen- 
sive but somewhat simplistic and inflexible 
security suite. It also includes Corel Photo 
Album and Pinnacle Studio SE, basic photo - 
management and video-editing programs, re- 
spectively. If you don't already have good 
solutions for the various included programs 
(check the Corel site for a full list), you might 
find the Home Edition to be a good buy. 

Standard Edition 

We prefer the Standard Edition, which 
lacks those minor-leaguers but includes 
Corel's powerful new email client, Word- 
Perfect Mail, which incorporates a Contact 
Manager, Calendar, spam protection, and 
both fast search and smart filing features to 
help you locate and organize messages. 
Standard Edition also includes Corel 
Presentations, a workhorse slideshow pro- 
gram that outstrips PowerPoint in function- 
ality. Furthermore, Standard Edition includes 
WordPerfect XML Project Designer, an XML 
(Extensible Markup Language) design utility. 

If you have kids who put together presen- 
tations, build Web sites, or crunch numbers, 
or if you want that functionality, you'll 
probably prefer Standard Edition. Corel of- 
fers fully functional, 30-day trials of the 
Standard Edition, but not of the Home 
Edition. (We don't recommend Professional 
or Student And Teacher for home users.) 

The Anti-Microsoft 

One of our favorite aspects of WP Office 
X3 is it offers features lacking in Microsoft 
Office. Do you want to export files from your 
word processing or presentation program into 
Adobe Acrobat PDF (Portable Document 
Format)? With WP Office X3, you can, and 
you can even import them into WordPerfect 
and edit them there. Do you long to create a 
family photo slideshow and export it to a file 
you can play on the Internet? With Corel 
Presentations, you can create slideshows and 
export them to Internet- friendly Flash. Forget 
that with PowerPoint or any Microsoft Of- 
fice program. 

Do you wish Outlook Express or Outlook 
could index your emails like Gmail and 
some other online mail services do? Switch 
to WordPerfect Mail and gain that capa- 
bility. Even automatic reformatting, which 
Micro-soft Word often does without per- 
mission, is a "by your leave" operation in 
WordPerfect. On the flip side, in 
WordPerfect, you can format text you paste 
from a Web page to match the formatting of 
your document with a single command. 
(One place where WP Office X3 definitely 
doesn't beat Microsoft Office is with 
Quattro, its spreadsheet program. While 
Quattro is powerful, it doesn't match in- 
dustry-leader Microsoft Excel.) 

Sweetening The Pot 

Many of the sweet features of X3, in- 
cluding PDF support and WordPerfect Mail, 
were not present in WP Office 12. X3 also 
comes with a video training CD to help you 
get up to speed on the new features. Overall, 
whether you are upgrading or jumping ship 
from your existing office suite, WP Office 
X3 deserves a look. All editions are capable 
of importing and exporting to various 
Microsoft formats, and of altering the inter- 
face to more closely align with that of 
Microsoft Office, making the transition for 
existing Office users a bit easier. II 

by Jennifer Farwell 

Smart Computing / October 2006 23 

Software Reviews 

Checklist 3.0 







Atka Software 

(952) 405-2200 



Performance 5 
Ease Of Use 5 
Installation 4 
Documentation 4 
Price 3 
Overall Score 4.2/5 


Track It Until If s Done 

It used to be task management software 
was just for corporate types. However, 
with the increasingly hectic personal lives 
many of us lead, a little help managing our 
To-Do lists is welcome. Enter Checklist 3.0, 
a simple task- tracking program. 

Creating tasks is simple (select the New 
option on the File menu or press the ENTER 
button when you are working in the Task 
pane). Editing them is equally painless. From 
this window, you can provide start and due 
dates, estimated durations, descriptions, task 
assignments, and other attribute categories. 
You can also customize the list of available 
categories and choose which ones to display 
as fields in the main Viewing Area. 

A right- click menu gives you more flexi- 
bility, letting you insert tasks, add subtasks, 
change priorities, and more. Tabs at the 
bottom of the Viewing Area let you see var- 
ious attributes of a task. You can also track 
the actual time you work on a task by right- 
clicking the task and choosing Start Working 
On Task from the drop-down menu. 


ler completed tasks ^| 

Actual Time I Start Date j Due Date j 
Nov 18 Nov 25 

scription Dates Times Status Completion 

Checklist is not project-management soft- 
ware, so it cannot evaluate your schedule, 
recommend timeslots, or warn you of 
scheduling conflicts. Second, you cannot 
structure list orders by criteria. Instead, you 
must manually rearrange tasks to sort them 
by date or other criteria. 

Finally, Checklist's Help Index is nonexis- 
tent — selecting that option from the Help 
menu takes you to a users manual. If you're 
looking for a basic, easily customized task 
monitoring app, Checklist may suit you fine. 
However, we recommend you use the 15- 
day free trial before purchase. II 

by Jennifer Farwell 


Prevent Unauthorized 

Eighty percent of all PCs are now infected 
with spyware, and malicious programs 
such as keystroke loggers are on the rise. 

Anti-malware programs can be very effec- 
tive. However, they often require you to ac- 
cept default settings or make determinations 
about a file based on arcane descriptions. 

Aura does not scan your PC looking for 
existing, problematic files. Rather, it blocks 
active programs from running or creating the 
executable files needed for program installa- 
tions. Because if its approach, Aura is particu- 
larly adept at identifying "drive-by down- 
loads:" programs that download and install 
in the background while you are surfing a 
Web site. 

When Aura blocks a file, it issues an au- 
dible alert, letting you temporarily suspend 
blocking or edit the file's settings. In our 
tests, Aura blocked even the tiniest executa- 
bles that Web sites install on our PC for 

Blocked Files 



;; : v ■ ■ ■■-■•■ ■■■-■'■■■■■ ■"' - ' •: ■ ■" 


J He,p | 

tracking and other activities. (We did not 
test — and cannot certify — Aura's capability 
to catch every executable.) 

Aura requires Microsoft's .NET framework, 
an operating environment for Web services 
and Web-based applications. If you do not 
have it on your system, Aura will notify you 
and provide a link to Microsoft's download 
site. A free trial will give you a chance to put 
Aura through its paces. If you purchase Aura, 
a single license will cover up to five PCs in 
your household. II 

by Jennifer Farwell 

24 October 2006 / 

Staff Picks 

Our Experts Pick The Best Hardware 

Dell 2407WFP 

As a proud DIYer, I prefer to order individual PC compo- 
nents, roll up my sleeves, and assemble a custom PC that 
fits my needs. But even though this means I can bypass tradi- 
tional PC manufacturers' systems, I don't ignore all of their 
wares. Dell's 2407WFP, a 24-inch widescreen LCD (liquid- 
crystal display), is a perfect case study. 

In addition to its attractive design, the 2407WFP has a 1,920 
x 1,200 maximum resolution. Granted, Dell's new widescreen 
display isn't for everyone. If you prefer to focus on one appli- 
cation and keep other programs minimized or running in the 
background, a modest 17-inch LCD should be enough. 

I was most impressed with the 2407WFP's potential as an 
entertainment LCD. It has component and S -Video inputs, so 
you could connect a combination of a VCR, DVD player, and 

HD cable box to the 
2407WFP to watch 
movies or TV pro- 
gramming. A Quick- 
Time teaser of "Spi- 
der-Man 3" in 1080p 
looked terrific on the display, so the 
2407WFP would be a natural match with 
a Windows Media Center PC. 

If you haven't made the jump to such 
a large LCD, the 2407WFP's size might 
overwhelm you. But once you become 
accustomed to its impressive screen resolution, you'll appre- 
ciate the ability to keep multiple windows open at once. II 

by Vince Cogley 






Desktops <= $1,500 
Dream 2006 
$859 (base) 



A lot of system for not a lot of price. It starts off with an Intel Pentium D 
930 processor and includes a 250CB hard drive. 

Desktops > $1,500 
ALX Series 


Alien ware 

I've tested several systems in Aurora's ALX series. 1 haven't tested the 
latest configurations just yet, but I'm excited about both the Dual SLI 
and the Crossfire systems. I'm glad to see that Alienware is using the 
new AMD Athlon 64 FX-62 CPU. 

Notebooks <= $1,500 

Pavilion dv5250us Entertainment 

Notebook PC 


Notebooks > $1,500 
ENVY u:909 





This multimedia powerhouse has 2CB of RAM, LightScribe DVD±/RW, 
Windows XP Media Center, and much more. 

This powerful desktop replacement notebook does everything your 
desktop can do, only better and faster. But at nearly five grand, you'd 
expect it to. 

Handhelds & PDAs 
(personal digital assistants) 
iPAQ hx2495 


USB Enhanced Media Keyboard 



V450 Laser Cordless Mouse For Notebooks 




This handheld has been around for a while, but it's still a great pick. 
With Windows Mobile 5.0, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and integrated CF 
(Compact Flash) and SD (Secure Digital) card readers, it suits my 
needs perfectly. 

Josh Although I haven't used this particular model, I've enjoyed using similar 

Dell Dell keyboards. If your desk has a keyboard tray, you'll appreciate the 

www.delLcom keyboard's small footprint. 

Kylee Logitech has updated the V400 with a new, more ergonomic design. As with 

Logitech the previous model, this laser notebook mouse has a compartment to store its wireless receiver. 

CRTs (cathode-ray tubes) 
17-inch AccuSync700M 


Although 1 haven't used this particular model myself I've had great ex- 
periences with Dell's UltraSharp line. Unless you insist on the (much 
pricier) widescreen monitors, this is a solid choice. 

LCDs <= 19" 





This 19-inch widescreen monitor supports resolutions up to 1,440x900 
and has an 8ms response time, but what really makes it sing is that 
$300 price tag. 

LCDs > 19" 






See review above. 

Smart Computing / October 2006 25 

Staff Picks 


The Canon Elura 100's 1.3 3 -megapixel CCD lets you snap stills while simultane- 
ously recording video. Its Widescreen HR feature makes efficient use of the CCD 
image sensor to deliver a higher resolution video image. The unit includes a larger than 
average 2.7-inch widescreen LCD and a 20X optical zoom. The omni-selector joystick 
makes navigating menus, playing back video, and enabling any of the camcorder's many 
effects and modes simple. Other notable features include three metering modes and 
Auto Exposure Bracketing, a MultiMediaCard and SD (Secure Digital) card slot, and a 
built-in lens cover. With all these features, the Elura 100 is priced to move. II 

fTT7nrf|7T^^^^^^^^^^A by Andrew Leibman 




(800) 652-2666 

Inkjet <= $150 
PIXMA iP4200 

Inkjet > $150 

PictureMate Deluxe Viewer Edition 


Laser <= $200 



Laser: $200 to $500 
Magicolor 2400W 

Laser > $500 













Konica Minolta 




A fully loaded printer for less than $100; complete with duplex 
printing individual ink cartridges, as well as two paper trays for so 
you don't have to continually swap paper types. 

A lunchbox-sized Inkjet with a built-in color screen; buy the op- 
tional battery and make 4x6 prints anywhere, anytime. 

The HL-2040 is a solid offering from Brother that features a 20ppm 
(pages per minute) print speed and will spit out the first page of a 
document in under 10 seconds. 

This color laser can print Sppm (color) and 20ppm (b&w). The 35,000 
page per month duty cycle means this printer will likely hold up to 
any printing task you ask of it. 

Though this giant printer can handle the print load of a sizeable 
office, the 2,400dpi (dots per inch) image quality it can produce 
gives your personal images life. 

This 4-in-1 laser device appears to be a solid offering from Dell. It 
features a 600 x 1,200dpi scanner and a printing unit that can 
produce up to 27 pages per minute. 

Flash Memory & Portable 

Voyager 4GB 




Don't let the retail price scare you. I've seen this flash drive on 
etailersfor under $100. 

CD & DVD Drives 
about $35 



Low error rates, very fast at almost every task, and LightScribe 1.2 
support. What more could you want? 

Hard Drives 

Raptor WD1500ADFD 150GB 



Western Digital 

Updated for outrageous speed and a more respectable capacity. 


Digital Camcorders < $500 



Digital Camcorders > $500 



Digital Still Cameras - Point & Shoot 

PowerShot A700 


Digital Still Cameras - Adv./Prosumer 



Graphics Cards <= $150 
e-GeForce 7600GS 256MB 
w/Passive Heatsink 

Graphics Cards > $150 
Radeon X1 600 PRO HDMI 
About $150 













Compact and easy to use, the Elura 100 is an excellent buy for the 
money. (See review above.) 

We recently had this unit in-house, and it's as feature-packed and 
fun to use as any camcorder. You'll also appreciate the high-resolu- 
tion widescreen feature. 

You can find this camera online for around $300, a great bargain for 
a 6-megapixel camera with 6X optical zoom and intuitive controls. 

It's nothing revolutionary— just a slightly improved version of 
Canon's wildy popular and ultra-capable 20D. 

Because it uses a passive heatsink this midrange graphics card gives 
you good performance with no excess noise. 

With a built-in HDMI (High-Definition Multimedia Interface) port, 
this card is a fantastic building block for a DIY media center PC. 

26 October 2006 / 


Microsoft PowerToys 
For Windows XP 

This Month In 
Windows Tips & Tricks 

Registry Backups 
Win98 Printer Sharing 

Contributing Writers 

Joseph Moran 
Chris Jackson 
Nathan Lake 

Next Month 

Microsoft Live 


With the Virtual Desktop 
Manager, you can switch 
among four virtual 
Desktops from the 
Windows Taskbar. 

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As its name suggests, 
Tweak Ul lets you 
adjust many aspects 
of Windows' interface 
look and feel. 

icrosoft PowerToys For Windows 
XP is a collection of utilities for 
WinXP. To get your hands on 
them, visit 

You can download each PowerToy individu- 
ally, and after installation, some of them can be 
accessed from the Start menu. Most, however, 
are simply added to Windows without much 
fanfare, so when appropriate, we'll tell you how 
you can access a particular utility. If you try 
one out and decide you don't like or need it, 
fear not: You can uninstall every PowerToy 
through Add Or Remove Programs. 

Microsoft requires you to install and run 
the Windows Genuine Advantage validation 
utility before it will let you download any of the 
PowerToy applications. Also, while the Power- 
Toys should work just fine on most WinXP 
systems, Microsoft doesn't 
provide any support for 
them, so if you need help 
with one (or in the unlikely event one messes 
up your PC), you're on your own. 

Alt-Tab Task Switcher 

Many people use the ALT- 
TAB key combination to 
switch among the applications 
running on their systems. 
When you use ALT-TAB, 
WinXP normally displays only 
the application's name and 
icon (along with the document 
file of an open file, when ap- 
propriate). When you install 
the Alt-Tab Task Switcher, you 
will also see a preview of the 
program window as you cycle 
through your applications. This tool can make 
it easier for you to visually identify the window 
you want, particularly if you tend to run mul- 
tiple copies of the same application. One caveat 
though — for applications that are minimized, 

the tool will only show the title bar, which 
isn't particularly useful. 

ClearType Tuner 

ClearType is Microsoft's technology for im- 
proving the readability of text on LCDs (liquid- 
crystal displays) by reducing the jagged edges 
on fonts. It comes with WinXP, but your only 
choices are to turn the feature on or off. When 
you run the ClearType Tuner (which you'll 
find in the Control Panel), it takes you through 
a wizard that shows you various text samples 
and adjusts the ClearType settings based on 
which samples you think look best. 

Image Resizer 

If you often find yourself resizing photos, you 
can do it quickly and easily by using the Image 
Resizer. To use it, right-click any image thumb- 
nail (or file listing) anywhere in WinXP and se- 
lect Resize Picture. You'll be able to resize the 
image in a variety of sizes, even to a 240 x 320 
resolution ideal for a Windows-based PDA 
(personal digital assistant). By default, Image 
Resizer creates copies of your photos before 
changing them, but it can be configured to re- 
size the originals. 

Open Command Window Here 

DOS may be dead, but the occasional need 
for the command line isn't (especially if you use 
Windows network diagnostic tools such as ping 
or ipconfig). Normally, opening a Command 
window involves a visit to the Start menu, but if 
you install Open Command Window Here, 
you'll be able to quickly summon one via a 
right- click context menu from any file system 
window. In fact, the Command window will 
open with the prompt pointing to whatever 
folder you launched it from. (Alas, this utility 
tool doesn't work directly from the Win- 
dows Desktop.) 

Smart Computing / October 2006 27 


Power Calculator 

Although it's a minor application 
that hasn't changed much since Win- 
dows 95, WinXP's Calculator can be 
a handy way to do some quick math. 
It has its faults, though. Power 
Calculator improves on the standard 
Calculator by providing a history so 
you don't have open multiple calcs or 
jot numbers down on paper to keep 
track of various figures. Power Cal- 
culator can also do conversions be- 
tween almost two dozen units of 
measure. And if you consider your- 
self a mathlete, you'll appreciate 
Power Calculator's ability to create 
graph and evaluate functions. 

Slide Show Wizard 

If you want to display your photos via a personal Web 
site, you can use the Slide Show Wizard to automatically 
create an HTML (Hypertext Markup Language) -based 
slideshow for your images. You can use the wizard to 
build a slideshow out of individual images or entire 
folders of images. Then you can choose an ideal size for 
your images, drag and drop them into a specific order, 
and create a (very) basic title page. The wizard will orga- 
nize the images and create all the relevant HTML pages 
which you can then transfer to the location of your 
choice for viewing. (Also included in PowerToys is a 
separate CD Slide Show Generator that will let you 
create a slideshow and burn it to a CD viewable in sys- 
tems that don't run WinXP.) 


When you have lots of files on your system, man- 
aging them or even just moving them around can be- 
come unwieldy. SyncToy can help automate all kinds 
of file operations that normally have to be done manu- 
ally, such as copying or moving files from one folder to 
another (or say, from a digital camera's memory card 
to your hard drive). You can also use it to synchronize 
the contents of two folders, and SyncToy will track file 
renames and deletions for you. 

Taskbar Magnifier 

If you've ever wanted to get an up -close look at a sec- 
tion of your screen, you can use the Taskbar Magnifier. 
To use it, after installation, right- click an empty space on 
the Taskbar, select Toolbars, and then click Taskbar 
Magnifier. A small window will be added to your Taskbar 

and whether you want 

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which will display a magnified version 
of the area beneath the mouse pointer. 
This utility performs a similar function 
as WinXP's built-in Magnifier feature, 
though that one uses a much larger 
chunk of your screen. 

Tweak Ul 

Webcam Timershot can turn your PCs 
camera into a monitoring system. 

There are countless ways to cus- 
tomize WinXP's interface, but in- 
stalling Tweak UI will give you 
access to a few dozen more in the 
areas such as the Windows Explorer, 
Desktop, and Taskbar. Tweak UI al- 
lows you to prevent applications that 
need attention from forcing them- 
selves front and center when you're 
in the middle of something else. You can also adjust 
the size or image quality of thumbnails you view, hide 
unused applets from the Control Panel, and automati- 
cally log a user into Windows after system startup 
(even if the account is password-protected). 

Virtual Desktop Manager 

If you don't have the budget (or the space) for mul- 
tiple monitors, using virtual Desktops can be a great way 
to reduce clutter. Virtual Desktops are built into the 
forthcoming Windows Vista, but you can get much the 
same feature with PowerToys' Virtual Desktop Manager. 
After you install it, right- click an empty space on the 
Taskbar, select Toolbars, and then click Desktop 
Manager, and you'll be able to switch among four virtual 
Desktops via the Taskbar. When you use this feature, ap- 
plications will remain on the desktop you launched them 
from, but your Desktop icons (including ones you have 
created) will be accessible from any Desktop. 

Webcam Timershot 

If you have a camera connected to your PC, you may 
have considered using it to keep tabs on things while 
you're away. If so, you can use the Webcam Timershot 
PowerToy to turn your PC into a monitoring system. 
Webcam Timershot will make your camera automati- 
cally snap still pictures at specified intervals and then 
save the files either on your hard drive or to an online 
location. You can configure the Webcam Timershot to 
take shots every few seconds, minutes, hours, or days 
and either retain only the most recent photo or accu- 
mulate them for a time-lapse effect. II 

by Joseph Moran 

28 October 2006 / 


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Back Up The 
Windows Registry 

It doesn't matter whether you like to 
tinker under the hood of Windows or if 
you're installing a new application. 
Eventually, something is going to go awry, 
and your PC will start misbehaving. In such 
situations, a mysterious entity known as the 
Registry may be your computer's salvation. 

What Is The Registry? 

Although we like to think of Windows as a 
monolithic application (albeit large and com- 
plex), it's really a conglomeration of several 
programs. When Windows starts up, each of 
these programs needs various information to 
start properly. In addition, applications that run 
under Windows also need startup information. 

Before the arrival of Windows 95, Windows 
and apps that ran under it utilized a variety of 
startup files known as INI (initialization) files. 
Each application had its own INI file, and there 
was no consistent format to these files. In addi- 
tion, applications could store their INI files wher- 
ever they chose, making managing these difficult. 

With the advent of Win95, Microsoft intro- 
duced the Registry. Instead of storing settings in 
numerous INI files scattered throughout your 
hard drive, these settings were held in a small 
database and managed through a variety of 
tools. Centralizing the location of these settings 
made management easier and quickly became 
the standard for all future versions of Windows. 

Yet the old adage about putting all of your 
eggs in one basket is particularly apt with the 
Registry. If the Registry becomes corrupt or a 
setting improperly altered, your application 
may not start or Windows might become un- 
stable. Thus the need to back up the Registry 
on both a routine basis, as well as on demand. 

The Registry In Detail 

The Registry is comprised of several compo- 
nents, known as hives or keys. Each key holds 

specific settings and can be backed up individ- 
ually. Beneath each key is a series of subkeys 
that hold the particular application settings. 
When troubleshooting a problem, a support 
site may instruct you to modify a particular 
value in one of these subkeys. 

When Is The Registry Altered? 

Any time you install a new application, 
your Registry is updated with application set- 
tings. Every time you modify a setting, be it 
your screen resolution, the name of your 
computer, or any other trivial setting, odds 
are the Registry is being modified. And if you 
add new hardware to your computer, driver 
entries are also added to the Registry. In short, 
just about any change you make to your 
system is reflected in the Registry. 

When To Back Up The Registry 

Because the Registry is modified so fre- 
quently, it's a good idea to back it up on a daily 
basis. And Windows makes a daily backup of 
your Registry, as long as you've rebooted 
during that day. When Windows was relatively 
immature, it was common to frequently reboot 

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In addition to being the de facto utility for editing 
the Registry, Regedit is also one of the easiest ways 
to back up the Registry. 

Smart Computing / October 2006 29 


idows Registry 


em registry 

v Current use;; 

Other open; 

your PC; either Windows had crashed or it was just the 
recommended practice. 

However, with the introduction of broadband Internet 
connections and the improved stability of Windows, 
many users now leave their computers running for weeks 
on end. The only time they reboot is when a Service Pack 
or update requires it. This leads to Registry backups that 
are usually so far out of date that they're useless. Make a 
Registry backup any time you install new software or are 
making a significant change to Windows. 

What determines a significant change? A good ex- 
ample is our previous scenario of editing the entries in 
the Registry itself. Installing new hardware or software 
is a good reason to back up your Registry, as well. 
Finally, if you're going to edit a subkey, stop and back 
up your Registry. 

Partial Or Full? 

As aforementioned, the Win- 
dows Registry is made up of several 
hives that hold subkeys with the 
settings we want to protect. Each of 
these subkeys can be backed up 
(and restored) on an individual 
basis. It's not uncommon for repair 
instructions to tell you to back up 
particular hives or subkeys. And it's 
not a difficult task as long as you're 
deliberate in the steps you follow. 
However, we recommend you ig- 
nore these instructions and back up 
the entire Registry instead. 

Why? Although modifying a single subkey is easy in 
both theory and practice, it's also just as easy to modify 
the wrong key. The subkey naming nomenclature is ob- 
tuse, and until you've built up a certain amount of famil- 
iarity with the Registry, it's easy to confuse one subkey 
with another. And because it's easy to make mistakes, 
there's no reason not to back up the entire Registry. 

Windows Old: Win98/98SE/Me 

Although diving into the bowels of the Registry can 
be intimidating, backing it up is easy with Win98 
/98SE/Me. To make a copy of your Registry, click Start 
and Run; type scanregw in the Open field; and click 
OK. When prompted to back up the Registry, click Yes. 
Eventually, you'll receive a Backup Complete message. 
When you do, click OK. 

The Registry backup is stored in the C:\WIN- 
DOWS\SYSBCKUP folder, in the form of, 
where x is a number between and 5. Every time you 
run scanregw, the oldest backup is overwritten. 

Windows New: Win2000/XP 

Creating a Registry backup in Windows 2000/XP 
(Professional or Home edition) requires different steps. 
These three versions of Windows provide a utility that's 
normally used to manipulate the Registry, Regedit. This 
utility also allows you to export a full backup of the 
Registry. To create the backup with Regedit, click Start 
and Run; type regedit; and click OK. When the Registry 
Editor opens, highlight My Computer, click Registry, 
and then select Export Registry File. Give your backup 
an easy-to- recognize name, choose Desktop for the des- 
tination folder, and click Save. 

You might be tempted to trust WinXP's System 
Restore to serve as a replacement for backing up your 
Registry. Although System Restore does capture a snap- 
shot of your computer's settings, actually restoring your 
computer to a previous state depends upon the ability 
to boot into Windows. And unfortunately, there are 
many times that a corrupted 
Registry will prevent you from 
doing so. Instead, trust your Reg- 
istry backups. 


ERUNT (www.larshederer.homepage.t-on, a third-party app, makes 
Registry backups a breeze. 

Once you've created your 
Registry backup, be sure to move 
it off your computer. The size of 
your Registry's backup can vary 
widely, but it's not uncommon to 
see Registry files larger than the 
1.44MB available on a floppy 
diskette. Better options are to copy it to a USB thumb 
drive or burn it to a CD. 

To restore your WinXP registry, launch the Registry 
Editor and click File and Import. Select the location 
you saved your backup copy, and click Open. This will 
restore either the entire Registry you previously backed 
up or the individual hives you selected during the 
backup procedure. For other versions of Windows, 
users should check the Microsoft Support Web site 
( for article 322754. 

An Ounce Of Prevention . . . 

Backing up your Registry isn't as glamorous as 
tweaking some internal Windows settings or down- 
loading the latest and greatest application. Yet like set- 
ting your car's parking brake when parked on a steep 
hill, creating a backup copy of your Registry is a simple 
process that provides you with a measure of comfort 
and protection. II 

by Chris Jackson 

30 October 2006 / 



Network Printer Sharing 
In Windows 98 

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Windows 98 users often encounter road- 
blocks when setting up a printer to share 
across a network. Although newer versions 
of Windows largely automate the configuration of your 
home network, Win98's tools are comparatively primi- 
tive in this department. We'll guide you through the 
Win98 configuration process and show you how to 
share a printer on your home network. 

Configure Your Win98 Network Settings 

First of all, it's a good idea to put a Network icon on 
your Desktop. To do so, click Start, Settings, and Control 
Panel. Right- click and drag the Network icon from the 
Control Panel to the Desktop and select Create Shortcut 
Here. Double-click the new Desktop Network icon to ac- 
cess your configuration. You'll also need 
your Win98 and network adapter soft- 
ware CDs because you'll use them to in- 
stall the network settings. 

Sharing your printer in Win98 means 
you'll have to configure your network 
settings. On the Configuration tab of the 
Network dialog box, you'll find a menu 
on the right side. Client will allow you to 
access remote files, printers, and other 
shared resources on the network. 
All computers running a version of 
Windows must install the Client For 
Microsoft Networks to have remote ac- 
cess to files and printers, but newer 
versions of Windows automatically con- 
figure it for you. To configure the 
Client, click Add, and when the Select 
Network Component Type window ap- 
pears, click Client and then click Add 
again. Click Microsoft and choose Client For Microsoft 
Networks. You'll need to insert your Win98 CD to install 
the Client drivers. When Win98 prompts you for the lo- 
cation of the drivers, select the drive containing your 
Win98 CD. Your PC will pull the necessary files from 
your CD and prompt you to restart your computer. 

When the Restart window appears, click Restart 
Later. Win98 will encourage you to restart your PC 



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Make sure that File And Printer 
Sharing For Microsoft Networks 
is listed on the Network 
Configuration tab. 

after every added service, but it's best to wait until 
you're finished configuring all of the settings before you 
restart. IPX/SPX- Compatible Protocol allows network 
exchanges between computers and will help automati- 
cally detect your network address and configuration 
settings. On the Configuration tab, click Add. Click 
Protocol and then click Add again. Select Microsoft and 
then click the IPX/SPX- Compatible Protocol. 

Adapt Your Adapter 

You won't be able to connect to your local network 
without a network adapter. A network adapter, or NIC 
(network interface card), is the physical device that con- 
nects your computer to the network, and if your com- 
puter doesn't have one, you can purchase a NIC for less 
than $15 at your local electronics re- 
tailer. Remember to follow all direc- 
tions in the accompanying network 
adapter user's guide when you install 
the card. You need to add your 
adapter so that Win98 can apply the 
IPX/SPX-Compatible Protocol settings 
to your network adapter. In the 
Network dialog box, click Add and 
then double-click Adapter. The 
Network Adapter menu will display a 
list of adapter models. If you see your 
adapter brand and model number in 
the list, select it and then click OK. If 
you don't see it, don't worry; you can 
install its drivers by clicking the Have 
Disk button. When you click Have 
Disk, Win98 will request the location 
of the software. Click the Browse 
button and select the CD drive in 
which you have inserted the network adapter software. 
The computer will search the adapter software CD for 
the files it needs. Once Win98 completes the configura- 
tion of your new settings, in the Network Configuration 
tab you should see services listed for Client For 
Microsoft Networks, your network adapter, and 
IPX/SPX protocol listed as IPX/SPX -> [the name of 
your network adapter] . Restart your computer. 


Smart Computing / October 2006 31 


Put Your Computer & Printer In The Right Network 

In Win98, your Network Neighborhood is where you 
access the other computers in your network. To share 
your printer with other computers in your Network 
Neighborhood, your computer needs to be set up in the 
same Workgroup as those computers. Double-click the 
Network icon we placed on the Desktop. On the 
Configuration tab, select Windows Logon from the 
Primary Network Logon drop -down menu. Click the 
Identification tab. The Identification tab lets you set your 
Computer Name, Network Workgroup, and Computer 
Description. Your computer needs to have a unique 
name to distinguish it from the rest of the computers in 
the Network Workgroup, and the Network Workgroup 
name needs to be the same as the other computers on 
your network. To find the name of the Network 
Workgroup and computers already on your network, 
double-click your Desktop's Network 
Neighborhood icon. Double-click 
Entire Network to find the Network 
Workgroup. Write down the Work- 
group name exactly as it appears on the 
screen. Take note of the other computer 
names within the Workgroup and 
choose a unique name for your PC. It's 
a good idea to choose a name that indi- 
cates the location of the computer in 
your house, such as Office Computer. 
Return to your Network settings and 
enter the unique computer name in the 
Computer Name field. For the Work- 
group Name, enter the name you wrote 
down earlier and click OK. 


C Not Shared 

-<? Shared As: 

Share Name: [DATA 

Access Type: 

r Read-Only 

C |uil 

C Depends on Password 

Read-Only Password: I 

. ....■.■:■ 


Sharing The Printer 

File And Print Sharing is the setting 
that lets you to share your printer on 
the network. On the Configuration tab of the Network 
dialog box, click the File And Print Sharing button. You 
will see two options: I Want To Be Able To Give Others 
Access To My Files and I Want To Be Able To Allow 
Others To Print To My Printer (s). Select both boxes if 
you want to share both files and printers. Click OK and 
insert your Windows CD; Windows will need to install 
the drivers for File And Print Sharing. Once the File And 
Print Sharing drivers finish installing, restart your PC. 

Even though you have enabled Print Sharing, your 
printer is not yet shared on the network. To share the 
printer, click Start, Settings, and then click Printers. 
The printer connected to the Win98 computer should 
be listed. Right- click the printer icon and then click the 
Sharing tab. Change the printer from Not Shared to 

Share other useful file folders for 
other computers on your network. 
You can share a folder the same 
way you shared the printer: Right- 
click the folder and click Shared As 
in the ensuing dialog box. 

Shared As and then enter a Share Name. A Share Name 
is the name of the printer as it will appear on the net- 
work, and you can use the Comment field below the 
Share Name to indicate where the printer is located or 
the primary use of the printer. You can prevent unau- 
thorized network users from using the printer with the 
Password field. If you don't feel you need a password, 
leave the field blank. You will know a printer is shared 
because a small hand will appear under your printer's 
icon in the Printers window. All shared files and 
printers have this same icon. 

Check that your printer is available on the network 
by double- clicking the Network Neighborhood icon on 
your Desktop. Look for the shared printer in the 
Workgroup and Computer Name you chose. 

Print Over The Network 

From a different network computer, 
you can add the printer we shared on 
the network to that computer's list of 
available printers. In Windows XP, 
click Start and Settings. Click Printers 
And Faxes. Click Add A Printer and 
click Next. Click A Network Printer, Or 
Printer Attached To Another Com- 
puter and click Next. Select Find A 
Printer In The Directory and click 
Next. Click Find Now; the printers in 
your Network will be listed at the 
bottom of the window. Find the shared 
network printer you want to add and 
click OK. In Windows 2000, click Start 
and Settings. Click Printers and then 
double- click Add Printer. In the Add 
Printer Wizard, click Next, select 
Network Printer, and click Next. Select 
Type The Printer Name, Or Click Next 
To Browse For A Printer and click 
Next. Find the shared network printer you want to add 
and click Next. Click Finish, and the network printer will 
be in your Printers folder. Use another computer on the 
network to print a test page to the Win98 computer's 
printer and thereby ensure you can print via the network. 
When you share multiple printers over the network 
you can use each printer for a specific purpose. For ex- 
ample, use an older printer only for drafts and low- 
quality print jobs. You can save the ink on your newer 
printer for important documents and pictures. Also, if 
one of your printers happens to break, you don't have 
to move any equipment or reinstall any software. II 

by Nathan Lake 


32 October 2006 / 

This Month In 
General Computing 

Mobile Music Options 

A Power Supply 

Contributing Writers 

Michael Border 
Tracy Baker 
Marty Sems 

Next Month 

Small Form-Factor 

Print Your Internet 


Warranty Woes 

Who Holds The Responsibility For OEM Software? 

Thoughts of fast navigation propelled Bruce 
Cloud as he opened the box holding his 
new Dell XPS 400 computer last February. 
Nearly forgotten was the Waynesboro, Va., man's 
irritation that Dell had shipped the computer im- 
mediately after he placed his order in January, 
even though he requested that it be shipped after 
Feb. 13 because he couldn't be home to accept de- 
livery before that date. 

Cloud actually opened the box on Feb. 19 and 
quickly set up his email account as system ad- 
ministrator. His email worked fine, but he ran 
into a problem when he tried to add an account 
for his wife: Microsoft Outlook Express repeat- 
edly locked up. He soon called a friend and 
former co-worker, Herb Griffith, to ask for help 
because Griffith was familiar with Windows XP. 
The men read manuals and tried obvious fixes, 
but were unable to resolve the problem. 

In early March, they called Dell tech support 
to ask for help. They were shocked to learn that 
free technical assistance was not included in the 
available warranty options, even though the 
computer was brand new. 

After several more calls, Dell tech- 
nicians identified the email 

glitch as a software conflict, and each call ended 
with a referral to Dell On Call, a fee-based help 
line that required payment of $79. Though 
Cloud says he emphasized that the computer 
never had worked correctly out of the box, "[the 
Dell tech person] made it real clear the charge 
would be $79 — she was rock steady on that." 

We first learned of the situation when 
Cloud's friend, Herb Griffith, a Smart Com- 
puting subscriber, emailed a letter to the editor 
in March. In part, Griffith's letter said: "I ex- 
plained this was a brand new PC. . . just out of 
the box. [Dell technical support representa- 
tives] would not budge and continued to say 
[there was a charge] to fix a software problem, 
even on a brand new computer." 

Dell's tech support staff told Cloud he had 
three options: return the computer within 21 
days after purchase, purchase a software service 
contract when placing the order, or pay the 
quoted service fee to fix the problem. Because of 
the passage of time between delivery and when 
Cloud actually unpacked the computer, access 
to the first two options already had lapsed. 

Frustration finally led the men to call Microsoft 
for technical help as the conflict involved OE and 



■■::>:; ,;S 

'■■■. ■:■;■;;•'. v.<sr 

Smart Computing / October 2006 33 



WinXP, two Microsoft products. 
Initially, they were directed to contact 
the computer manufacturer, Dell, be- 
cause under the terms of agreements 
between Microsoft and PC makers, 
manufacturers are responsible for op- 
erability of software they load onto 
new computers. After several calls to 
Microsoft, a technician made an ex- 
ception and coached Cloud through a 
two-hour telephone call in which 
Cloud uninstalled and reinstalled OE 
to solve the problem. 

Cloud and Griffith were still sur- 
prised that new computer warranty 
coverage didn't include manufacturer- 
loaded software. Although Microsoft 

helped fix the glitch, Cloud says the 
technical representative who helped 
him called the situation a grace case, 
essentially saying that the manufacturer 
(in this case, Dell) was responsible. 
These circumstances made us wonder 
whether there is a gap in software war- 
ranty coverage for new computers. 

What's The Deal? 

Falling computer prices are ex- 
erting pressure on profit margins, 
leading manufacturers to revisit all el- 
ements in their packages in search of 
relief, including what's covered by 
warranties and for how long. 

Bruce Cloud's dilemma raised 
questions about the status of current 
software coverage for major com- 
puter manufacturers, so we called 
Dell, Gateway, and HP to find out if 
factory-loaded software is covered on 
brand new computers. The problem 
also involves Microsoft, as its OSes 
(operating systems) are factory-in- 
stalled by manufacturers on the ma- 
jority of new computers sold today, 
so we called Redmond, too. We 
shared Herb Griffith's letter to the 
editor to learn how each manufac- 
turer would handle a similar call for 
consumer assistance under terms of 
current warranties. 


Dell representative Mike Maher initially said he thought the soft- 
ware problem on Cloud's new Dell computer would be covered, 
but upon further investigation, he reported that it isn't covered 
under current Dell warranty terms. He noted that warranty terms 
and coverage have been changing, industry-wide, in recent years. 

"Prices have been coming down as technology has gotten 
better . . . forcing us to have customers choose the type of war- 
ranty they want," Maher said. "Non-hardware-related issues are 
not currently covered [even two days after delivery]," he added. 

Dell's base warranty for new computers covers hardware 
support for defects. Consumers can seek help via email, on- 
line chat, or telephone technical assistance for one year. 
Additional coverage is available for longer periods, but with 
additional costs. 

"For XPS [a Dell gaming platform] products, all owners will 
receive rapid response support [five minutes or less average 
speed of answer] from XPS-trained technicians around the 
clock for the term of the warranty. Software support beyond 
initial boot up procedure is not covered under the base hard- 
ware warranty." 

Other consumer requests for help are channeled through 
Dell On Call, technical services available on a fee-per-incident 
basis, or under a packaged service contract. Problems that fall 
outside of basic warranty coverage include how-to questions 
for digital cameras, printers, WinXP, email and Internet setup; 
installation and configuration of most software on Dell PCs; 
spyware and virus removal; and network setup, Maher said. 

Following our initial interview, Mike Maher announced that 
in June 2006, Dell had extended warranty coverage beyond 
hardware to include Windows software that comes installed 
on new computers. Conflicts between other software are not 
covered by Dell warranties, Maher said. 

|JJ Gateway 

Spokesman David Hallisey responded about Gateway's war- 
ranty coverage: "The long and short of this is if we load it 
on our PCs, we will make sure our PC works with it. Our 
policy is that we make sure our PC works with the products 
we ship them with." 

"Gateway typically offers a one-year parts, labor and technical 
support warranty with our consumer PC products. Factory in- 
stalled hardware and software receive technical support to 

ensure functionality. Gateway's standard terms and conditions 
limit our support for nonbranded software to uninstalling and 
reinstalling software to return it to factory defaults." 

Hallisey said that there are limits to problems Gateway can 
resolve. "Gateway cannot reasonably solve potential software 
bugs, glitches with, say, Microsoft OSes on our own, and there- 
fore, [we] rely on manufacturers to make these updates," he 
said. "Gateway currently offers toll-based technical support 
for consumers with a focus on ensuring we answer the phone 
quickly and having a knowledgeable expert to ensure we solve 
customer issues as quickly and efficiently as possible." 

34 October 2006 / 




HP's response to our questions highlighted coverage differ- 
ences. Mark Notarainni, who heads up HP's consumer call cen- 
ters, said, "We do provide out-of-the-box support for software 
we load and not just hardware." 

HP's one-year hardware warranty also covers product sup- 
port, setup questions, and technical support. Beyond the war- 
ranty period HP provides, at no additional charge, online 

support including dedicated chat and email with agents, diag- 
nostics, and online classes. 

"Software-related problems are one of the top call genera- 
tors," accounting for some 90% of calls to the HP help line, 
Notarainni said. Because the software conflict Bruce Cloud ex- 
perienced involved Microsoft products, we asked Notarainni 
to address the relationship between Microsoft and HP: "It is 
our responsibility to the consumer ... to get them set up ap- 
propriately" with a new computer and also to help them later 
in the warranty period. 

Though HP's Mark Notarainni said his firm would provide sup- 
port for software problems, Dell's Mike Maher and Gateway's 
David Hallisey seemed to indicate that Microsoft would have to 
become involved in some of those issues. Is there a gap in com- 
puter software warranty coverage between some manufacturers 
and leading operating system provider Microsoft? 



Microsoft's generations of Windows are the most widely em- 
ployed by computer manufacturers. Microsoft licenses its 
OSes to major manufacturers, empowering computer makers 
to install Microsoft software as part of the manufacturing 
process. Any software glitch involving its software also tangen- 
tially involves Microsoft, regardless of which company installs 
the OS. 

Andy Dupree, Microsoft group manager of OEM (original 
equipment manufacturer) support, acknowledged there are 
some confusing areas in warranty coverage. 

"There is potential for confusion around the software that 
is preinstalled on a computer and the software that is not. 
Preinstalled software is supported by the OEM or system 
builder. This provides the best experience for customers, given 
their OEM is aware of items like drivers or default settings and 
therefore knows the best way to help the customer. It is im- 
portant for customers to understand that Microsoft provides 
support for retail software purchases [added to systems later, 
after purchase] or software updates from the Web." 

Consumers who buy and install Microsoft products after 
the computer purchase can call Microsoft directly for tech- 
nical help concerning the software added later. 

Dupree added: "Microsoft has a legal agreement in place 
between our OEMs and system builders that obligates them 
to provide support for their customers on the Microsoft soft- 
ware preinstalled on the machine. The OEM or system builder 
ultimately makes the decision on software support prices and 
policies for those customers who have purchased a computer 
from them with software that has been preinstalled." 

To support the OEMs working directly with consumers, 
Dupree said Microsoft maintains "a staff of deeply skilled tech- 
nical resources internally as a backup." Microsoft also advises 
manufacturers on documentation to send to consumers as 
part of new computer packages. 

Typically, when Microsoft fields calls from an OEM's cus- 
tomer, the response from Microsoft is the same, no matter the 
computer manufacturer in question, said Dupree. Microsoft 
has processes in place to transfer the call to the appropriate 
computer manufacturer. 

Dupree's advice to consumers is to ask what support is available, 
given that it varies from one manufacturer to another, particularly 
what assistance is available at no additional charge, and how con- 
sumers can contact tech help lines by the Internet or telephone. 


Based on information from Micro- 
soft, Dell, HP, and Gateway, we found 
that there are significant differences in 
levels of warranty coverage from com- 
pany to company. Representatives 
from HP and Gateway assert that the 
companies will assist new computer 
buyers who encounter out-of-the-box 

conflicts with hardware or software 
loaded at the factory. While Dell's 
new/revised warranty terms cover 
hardware and OSes, the company 
doesn't cover other software conflicts 
(without additional fees). 

Pricing pressures invite changes 
that may not be readily apparent until 
after a purchase. Consumers should 

not to merely assume that today's 
warranty is the same as yesterday's. 
The best safeguard is to ask questions 
and identify warranty limitations be- 
fore purchasing a new computer to 
clarify what's covered and what may 
lead to additional costs. II 

by Michael Border 

Smart Computing / October 2006 35 


Readers' Tips 

Regardless of their level 
of experience, our 
readers constantly 
come across fast, easy 
ways to accomplish a 
task (or avoid a 
problem), and they're 
eager to share with the 
rest of us. This page is 
our chance to share 
some of their great 
ideas with the rest 
of you. 

If you've run across a 
way to solve or avoid a 
problem, fix a malfunc- 
tioning piece of soft- 
ware or hardware, or 
accomplish a com- 
puter-related task, let 
us (and other Smart 
Computing readers) 
know about it! Email 
your tip to readerstips 
Please limit your tips to 
200 words or fewer. 
Tips may be edited for 
length and clarity. 

Helpful Advice & Solutions 
From Our Readers 

Save Money With An Alternative To Photo Paper 

I have been using glossy HP Brochure & Flyer Paper 
for some time now and find it to be an acceptable 
alternative to, and much cheaper than, regular 
photo paper. I use a Poster layout in Print Shop, but 
any other such program would be acceptable. I 
usually put three or four pictures on a page, which 
leaves me room for text comments. I print on both 
sides of the paper, again saving costs, and then keep 
the pages in plastic sleeves in a three-ring binder. 

Robert S., J anesville, Wis. 

Configure Your Router To Avoid Conflict & Risks 

The IP (Internet Protocol) address of the high-speed 
modem on the LAN (local-area network) side is usu- 
ally set to, which is the default LAN ad- 
dress of many routers. Thus, you can end up with a 
LAN on which two devices have the same IP address 
and, because the router is first off the PC in the 
chain, it responds to this address. The second device 
may never get access from the PC over the LAN. 
Sometimes I even find that both devices are at- 
tempting to respond to this address, and this 
causes communication problems. 

So, I usually reconfigure the router for a 
LAN address of something such as, using a high address to 
minimize the possibility of invasion 
by a hacker. After restarting every- 
thing yet again, I can now address 
both the modem and the router 
for maintenance. 

Frank R., Oceanport, N.J. 

Mimic Lotus 1-2-3 With Microsoft Excel Macros 

I have used both Lotus 1-2-3 and Corel Quattro 
Pro, and when I moved to Microsoft Excel, I found 
that some of the functions I had used were not 
available. I have [since] used several macros in 
various Excel files to perform functions similar to 
those in Lotus. Two macros in particular that I 
have used are listed below. The actual use of 

these macros was to create a layout sheet for spe- 
cific bingo games to be played on a given night. 
The sheet with the list in it contained a complete 
library of possible bingo game layouts. This oper- 
ation was designed to make the creation of the 
individual nightly layout sheets very easy: 

Sub FindLayout() 

' FindLayout Macro 
' Macro recorded 6/10/2006 by EAR. 
' Keyboard Shortcut: Ctrl+Shift+F 
Move the Active Cell one column to the right 

ActiveCell.Offset(0, 1).Select 
' Use the contents of the Active Cell to move it 
to the new location 

Range( Acti veCel I.Val ue,_ 
End Sub 

The second macro is then used to capture the par- 
ticular layout and copy it for future placement on 
another worksheet: 

Sub CopyLayout() 

' CopyLayout Macro 
' Macro recorded 6/9/2006 by E.A.R. 
' Keyboard Shortcut: Ctrl+Shift+C 
Dim strAnchor As String 

Establish the starting point or anchor cell for 
the determination of the Range 
strAnchor = ActiveCell.Address 
Move the Active Cell to the lower right cell in 
the desired range 

ActiveCell.Offset(6, 4).Select 
Select the range thus established 
Range(strAnchor, ActiveCell.Address).Select 
' Copy it 

End Sub 

The size of the layout is specified in the (R,C) por- 
tion of the ActiveCell.Offset() command. 

EAR., Mesa, Ariz. 

36 October 2006 / 



On The Move 

Liberate Your Tunes 

Aside from the infamous user 
who once mistook his com- 
puter's CD tray for a cup 
holder, it doesn't take most of us long 
to figure out that our PCs double 
as pretty good CD players. Maybe 
you've even progressed to copying 
your CDs to the computer or down- 
loading songs from services such as 
Apple's iTunes ( 

Having access to digital music 
on your PC is a nice feature, but 
wouldn't it be even better if you could 
take those tunes with you — in the car, 
on the subway, to the gym, or wher- 
ever else life happens to take you? 
Doing so is much easier than you 
might think, and there are many ways 
to take your music on the go. 

Digital Music Players 

You've probably heard of the 
Apple iPod ($299 for 30GB, $399 for 
60GB;, which gets a 

lot of attention because it is by far 
the most popular portable digital 
music player on the market, but it's 
just one of hundreds of compact 
products designed to store and play 
digital music. Companies such as 
Creative Technology (www. creative 
.com) and iRiver (www.iriveramerica 
.com) also make excellent digital 
music players, and even Microsoft is 
getting into the game with its re- 
cently announced Zune product line 
( (However, 
no solid Zune details were available 
at press time.) 

The storage capacity of the device, 
as well as the technology the device 
uses to store data, are two of the most 
important features to consider when 
shopping for a digital music player. 
The average digital music track con- 
sumes between 3 and 5MB of storage 

space, so you should be able to fit 
anywhere from 102 to 170 tracks on a 
low-capacity 512MB digital music 
player. Some lightweight players store 
between 1 and 4GB of data, which 
means these players store 204 to 
1,365 tracks. 

Most low-capacity digital music 
players store data on solid-state, or 
flash-based, memory chips that are 
lightweight, relatively small, and have 
no moving parts, so they are very 
durable. Flash-based players, for ex- 
ample Apple's 512MB iPod shuffle 
($69;, are ideal to 
use while exercising or in other envi- 
ronments where they will likely be 
jostled around. 

Some digital music players, such as 
the Apple iPod, store data on tiny 
hard drives that work much like com- 
puter hard drives, dramatically in- 
creasing their storage capacity. For 
example, the iPod with the largest 
storage capacity stores 60GB of data, 
which is enough to hold thousands of 
songs. The high storage capacity also 
makes these devices ideal for storing 
large video files, which an increasing 
number of players can display. The 
downside to hard drive-based players 
is that the hard drives have a lot of 
moving parts and can become seri- 
ously damaged from even a short fall. 

Connection Options 

Portable digital music players are 
terrific for listening to music through 
headphones, but you also can connect 
them to your car's stereo system in 
several different ways. Some newer 
car models have integrated iPod sup- 
port, and there also are aftermarket 
options, such as the Monster iCruze 
($79.99 to $149.80;, which add iPod support 
to nearly any vehicle. 

The least expensive option is 
to connect a digital music player 
directly to an audio input jack on 
the front panel of the car's stereo. 
If your car stereo doesn't have a 
direct input jack, you can purchase a 

Smart Computing / October 2006 37 


Music On The Move 

Download services such as 
iTunes let you fill your 
computer with music without 
ever having to insert a CD. 

cassette adapter, such as the Belkin 
Mobile Cassette Adapter ($19.99;, which lets you play 
music from any digital music player 
through your car's cassette deck. 

If you don't have a cassette player 
in your car, you might consider an 
FM transmitter, for instance, Griffin 
Technology's iTrip Auto ($69.99; These 
devices connect to the audio line-out 
jack of a portable MP3 player and 
then broadcast audio using a very 
weak FM signal. Simply tune your 
car's radio to the selected frequency 
and enjoy your music through your 
car's speakers. 

Optical Discs 

You don't necessarily have to buy 
an adapter or a connection device if 
you want to take your tunes with you. 
The cheapest way to take your digital 
music with you is to copy it to record- 
able CDs. These discs can be had for 
pennies each, so it doesn't really 
matter if they become damaged, lost, 
or destroyed. However, there are 

some compatibility is- 
sues to consider. 

If you listen to mu- 
sic on your comput- 
er, there's a very good 
chance that the soft- 
ware used to play that 
music can record your 
favorite music mixes 
onto a recordable CD. This process is 
called burning because a laser beam is 
used to literally heat up dye on the 
recordable disc, changing portions of 
it to a darker color. If your playback 
software doesn't have burning capa- 
bility, you might consider getting 
software that does. There are many 
excellent options to choose from, in- 
cluding Winamp (free for Winamp 
Basic, $19.95 for Winamp Pro; and iTunes (free;, which let 
you listen to digital music and record 
it to CDs. 

You'll need a recordable CD drive, 
which likely came with your com- 
puter if you purchased it within the 
past few years. If not, recordable 
drives from reputable companies such 
as Plextor ( and 
Sony ( are rela- 
tively inexpensive and readily avail- 
able. Be sure to get one that records 
both CDs and DVDs and also make 
sure it records to a variety of dif- 
ferent types of recordable me- 
dia including CD-R 

(CD-recordable), CD-RW (CD- 
rewriteable), DVD-R (DVD-record- 
able), DVD-RW (DVD-rewriteable), 
DVD + R, DVD + RW, and DVD- 
ROM. You'll want to purchase a drive 
that has buffer underrun protection, 
which can prevent a recordable disc 
from becoming a coaster (a useless 
disc) if the hard drive can't feed data 
to the disc quickly enough during a 
recording session. The recording 
speed of the drive isn't particularly 
important these days because most 
modern recordable drives are ex- 
tremely fast, but make sure the blank 
discs you purchase match or slightly 
exceed the rated maximum recording 
speed to prevent recording errors. 

There are two ways to record dig- 
ital music to a CD, and they often 
cause a lot of confusion. The first way 
is to create an audio CD, such as 
those you purchase at the store, which 
holds about an hour of music — some- 
times more, depending on the type of 
CD burner and media you use. These 
audio CDs can be played back in most 
(but not all) modern car (or home) 
CD players, making it easy and ex- 
tremely affordable to burn a stack of 
your favorite mixes for commuting or 
road trips. 

The other, often preferable way to 
store music on a CD is to create an 
MP3 CD. Files stored in this format 
take up only about one-tenth the 
space of the original audio files, 
meaning you can store about 10 
hours' worth of music on the same 
disc that only holds about an hour of 
standard CD music. 

The problem with MP3 CDs is that 
not all car CD players can read audio 
stored in MP3 format. You can get 
around this by upgrading the car's 
CD player, but a cheaper alternative is 
to buy a portable CD player such as 
the Sony MP3 CD Walkman Player 
($39.95;, which 
can handle MP3 discs and connect to 

Cassette adapters, such as the Belkin Mobile Cassette Adapter, let you control your 
digital music player using the built-in controls of your vehicle's cassette player. 

38 October 2006 / 


Music On The Move 

a car stereo using one of the methods 
discussed in this article. 

Satellite Radio 

Satellite radio is one of those trends 
that doesn't seem very exciting until 
you try it, and afterward you wonder 
how you ever lived without it. 
Services such as XM Radio (www and Sirius (www work by beaming hun- 
dreds of diverse radio stations to 
satellites that can then pass on the sig- 
nals to nearly every part of the United 
States. Imagine driving from coast to 
coast without ever having to tune in a 
new station or miss a 
crucial play during a live 
sports broadcast when 
you descend into a valley 
(and with many fewer 
commercials than you'd 
encounter on broadcast 
radio), and you've imag- 
ined satellite radio. 

Of course, with both 
of these services, there's 
a $12.95 monthly sub- 
scription fee to consider, 
and you'll need some 
hardware — preferably a 
device that can receive 
satellite signals on its 
own without an external 
antenna. One extrava- 
gant example is the 
Samsung Helix XM2go 
($399.99; www.xmradio 
.com/helix), which is 
very small, receives XM 
radio signals, and has 
1GB of internal solid- 
state memory for storing 
MP3 tracks or up to 50 
hours of XM recordings. 
The Sirius S50 ($299.99; The latest addition offers to Motorola's 

identical features, storing popular line of cell 

MP3 tracks or 50 hours phones, called the 

of Sirius recordings with KRZR K1, can play 

1GB of internal memory digital music stored 

wrapped in a very com- in its internal 

pact package. The Sirius memory chips. 

The iTrip from 
Griffin Technology 
lets any FM 
radio play music 
stored on a 
portable digital 
music player. 

S50 comes with a car adapter kit, 
which is only available as an optional 
$69.99 accessory for the Helix. Both 
Sirius and XM Radio offer many 
portable players designed for use in 
cars, and there are several devices that 
are less expensive than the mobile 
models featured here. 

Subscription Services 

Transferring all of 
your CDs, audio tapes, 
records, and other music 
to a PC in digital format 
can be frustrating and 
tedious, but purchasing 
it in ready-made form 
from download services 
such as iTunes tends to 
get expensive. However, 
compromise is possible, 
as several online digital 
music services now offer 
a subscription option 
that lets you transfer as 
many songs as you like 
from their catalog to a 
portable music player for 
a fixed monthly price. 
Napster To Go ($14.95 
per month; www.napster 
.com/ntg.html) is one 
example of this type of 
service. A subscription 
grants you access to 
Napster's entire catalog 
of over 1 million songs, 
letting you download as 
much music as you'd 
like to your portable 
music player. As long as 
your subscription re- 
mains active, you can 
add or remove tracks at 

will, and this is one of the easiest, 
most popular ways to fill up a high- 
capacity player with music you love. 

The downside to subscription ser- 
vices is that they only work with se- 
lect products that are compatible 
with the type of security system the 
service uses to prevent users from 
making permanent copies of their 
"rented" music files. Napster To Go, 
for example, doesn't work with 
iPods, so check the compatibility re- 
quirements carefully before sub- 
scribing to any music service. Also be 
aware that your account is tied to a 
specific portable music player, so you 
can't share the downloaded tracks 
with friends or family members, and 
you can't access them using any other 
device (although you can play them 
on your computer). 

Music Anywhere 

The popularity of digital music 
is such that nearly every portable 
device can store and play your 
tunes. Sony's PlayStation Portable 
handheld gaming system ($199.99; plays digital 
music stored on an internal Memory 
Stick Duo, and nearly every PDA 
(personal digital assistant) sold 
today has digital music playback 
capabilities. Most modern cell 
phones also play MP3 music, in- 
cluding Motorola's recently an- 
nounced KRZR Kl (www.motorola 
.com), which has an upgradeable 
memory slot so you can store more 
tunes. Thanks to products like these, 
no matter where you go, your music 
will follow. II 

by Tracy Baker 

Smart Computing / October 2006 39 


10 Easy Steps To Power Up Your PC 

Your PC used to work. In fact, it 
worked just fine before you in- 
stalled a better video card or 
another hard drive. Now, Windows is 
freezing up on you; that is, when your 
PC starts at all. 

Assuming you didn't buy a bum 
product, the culprit could be your com- 
puter's power supply. The PSU (power 
supply unit) inside your computer 
looks like a box with a mass of wires 
coming out of it. It converts AC (alter- 
nating current) from a standard house- 
hold plug into DC (direct current) that 
your computer can use. It also reduces 
the voltage from 110 volts to 12V, 5V, 
and 3.3V in order to run various de- 
vices. Unfortunately, if the devices 
you've connected to your PSU draw 
more power than it can supply, you'll 
see errors, hangs, and shutdowns. 

Even software can overwhelm your 
power supply, says Doug Dodson, CEO 
of power supply manufacturer PC 
Power & Cooling ( 

"Video cards draw the 
most power and are 
the primary reason for 
PSU upgrades," he says. 
"System crashes during 
games that load the video 
card [such as F.E.A.R.] 
often indicate an inade- 
quate PSU." 

Sometimes, PSUs sim- 
ply wear out. If one of its 
fans stops working or 
you connect one device 
too many, the PSU will 
heat up — and a hot 
power supply won't last 
long. You can test the 
condition of your power supply with 
an inexpensive tester, such as the 
$14.99 unit at 
/psu- 165.html. A repair shop can also 
connect a known good PSU to your 
computer for a quick test to determine 
whether your PSU needs to be replaced 
or if your computer problems are a re- 
sult of something else. If you need to 
buy and install a new power supply, 
here are the steps to follow. 

How To Buy 

If you plan to buy your 
next PC from a manufac- 
turer, you can save 
money by buying a 
replacement pow- 
er supply that 
suits your cur- 
rent technology 
needs. On the 
other hand, if 
you plan to build 
your next com- 
puter, take this op- 
portunity to buy a 
power supply that will be 

A PSU (power supply unit) may look homely, but it has a very 
important job: to keep your PC running stably. 

able to handle any new technologies in 
your next PC. 

Keep in mind that with PSUs, quality 
means stability. A shoddy power supply 
may cause your PC to freeze, shut down 
unexpectedly, or fail to boot, so buy a 
unit with favorable reviews. Some rep- 
utable manufacturers include Antec 
(, Enermax (www, FSP (www.fsp-, OCZ (www.ocztech, and PC Power & Cooling 
( . 

Power supplies are advertised with 
wattage ratings. The more watts a 
power supply can supply, the more 
devices it can handle. A strong PSU 
can also power more powerful pro- 
cessors and video cards. Unfortu- 
nately, most manufacturers don't 
measure wattage in a standard way, 
such as at a particular temperature 
(wattage drops as temperatures rise) 
or under a continuous load vs. at a 
brief peak of power draw. 

For most home users, a 450-watt 
PSU is adequate, even for PCs with 
dual-core processors. Game and per- 
formance enthusiasts will need more 

40 octoB! 


Replace Your Power Supply 

■■ • ■ w 


For about $15, you can buy a tester that will 
determine whether you need a new PSU. 

Current power supplies should support 
motherboards with either 24- or 20-pin 
main power connectors. This 24-pin 
connector can split to become a 20-pin plug. 

wattage to support their more powerful 
hardware, such as double or quadruple 
graphics chips. You can estimate how 
many watts you'll need at www.ener Select the 
boxes on the left to choose device types 
and enter how many of each device you 
have in the fields on the right. 

You don't need a PSU with an out- 
rageously high wattage rating. How- 
ever, if your power supply is too weak 
it will heat up, further decreasing its 
efficiency and making trouble more 
likely. A PSU will only give your PC 
the amount of current it needs, so 
there's no penalty for (and maybe 
even some efficiency benefits with) 
using a unit rated for "too much" 
wattage. And two years from now, 
when quad-core CPUs could be main- 
stream, a PSU with "too much" 
wattage today may be just right. 

"To future-proof a PC, choose a 
power supply that is EPS 12V compat- 
ible," Dodson says. This means that 
the PSU has either an 8-pin or two 

Pictured are some common connectors that most power supplies have. From left to right, here 
are a 4-pin Molex plug, a 5-wire SATA (Serial ATA) hard drive connector, and a 4-pin floppy 
plug. On the far right is a sensor connector that tells the motherboard how fast the PSU's fan 
is turning. 

4-pin connectors to supply stable 
auxiliary power to motherboards that 
support the EPS12V spec. Many re- 
cent motherboards require a 24-pin 
main connector, but some PSUs offer 
a 24-pin plug that breaks down into 
separate 20- and 4-pin connectors for 
compatibility with motherboards that 
have 20-pin main power jacks. 
Dodson says that a PSU should also 
have "at least one [6-pin] PCI Ex- 
press video connector and a min- 
imum of three [5-wire] SATA [hard] 
drive connectors." 

The video card, the processor, hard 
drives, and CD/DVD drives draw the 
most current from a power supply. 
Because these devices all require 12- 
volt power, "the 12-volt rating is by far 
the most important spec today," 
Dodson says. "The total 12-volt output 
should be a minimum of 34 amperes." 

Most power supplies are a standard 
size, except for some used in very 
compact PCs. Also, Dell computers 
use nonstandard PSUs with relocated 
AC power jacks and different wiring in 
its main motherboard power connec- 
tors (try PC Power & Cooling or Dell 
itself [] for a compatible 
replacement). Some other com- 
puter brands, such as Compaq (www and eMachines (www.ema, have also used propri- 
etary PSUs on various models. 

Removal & Replacement 

It's fairly straightforward to replace a 
power supply. You don't need to worry 

about installing drivers, but you do 
need to be careful as you connect and 
disconnect power cables inside your 
computer. Here's a step-by-step guide. 

1. Before you begin, back up your 
data. Turn off your computer and 
unplug its three-pronged power 
cable. Remove your PC's side 
panel. As you work inside your 
computer, frequently touch a large 
metal object, such as a desk, to dis- 
charge any static electricity. 

2. Familiarize yourself with your old 
power supply's installation and 
cable orientation. Make a note of 
where each power cable goes. Each 
type of connector has a different size 
and shape, and most are keyed so 
that you can't insert one incorrectly. 

3. Disconnect each power cable from 
the device it powers. This includes 
your motherboard, your hard 
drives and optical drives, some of 
the fans, and possibly your video 
card. Don't force any connector 
that doesn't easily detach. Some 
have plastic clips that you'll need to 
depress with your finger or thumb 
before they'll let go. Grasp each 
connector, not its wires, and firmly 
rock or wiggle it loose. 

4. Support your old power supply 
with your right hand as you un- 
screw its mounting bolts from the 
outside rear panel of your PC with 
your left hand. Take special care not 
to let the PSU fall into your case. 
Carefully pull the power supply and 
all of its cables out of the back of 
your PC, guiding its wires with your 

Smart Computing / October 2006 41 


Replace Your Power Supply 

These plugs support newer technologies. A 
power supply that supports EPS12V has an 
8-pin connector that may split into two 4-pin 
plugs (shown on the left) for compatibility 
with other types of motherboards. The 6-pin 
plug on the right supports a PCI Express 
graphics card. 

Some connectors have latches that keep them 
from coming loose. Press on the lever end to 
rock the latch free and then carefully wiggle 
out the connector. 

Usually, four screws fasten the PSU to the rear 
of the PC. Don't let the power supply fall after 
you remove the last screw. 

right hand. If you forgot to discon- 
nect a cable — we always miss one or 
two — detach them now. Tangled 
power harnesses love to snag on 
things, so go slowly. 

5. Compare your old, dusty PSU to 
your new, shiny one. Take a mo- 
ment to make sure that your new 
power supply has the same type of 
connectors as your old one. 

If your new power supply 
doesn't have enough of a particular 
type of connector, you might not 
have to worry. It's easy to attach in- 
expensive splitter cables to add 
extra lines to some common types 
of connectors, such as the 4-pin 
Molex connectors that power your 
CD/DVD and hard drives. You can 
also buy adapters to convert Molex 
connectors to fit SATA (Serial 
Advanced Technology Attachment) 
hard drives (you should only attach 
one type of power cable to a hard 
drive, even if it has both SATA and 
Molex connectors). You can pur- 
chase splitters and adapters at a 
local computer or electronics store. 

6. It's time to install your new PSU. 
Hold its box in your left hand and 
its cable harnesses in your right 
hand. Carefully feed all of the ca- 
bles and connectors through the 
hole in the back of the PC and then 
slide the new power supply into 
place. You may need to wiggle the 
PSU side to side or up and down to 
get it to fit but don't force it. Fasten 

the new power supply in place 
using its four mounting screws. 

7. Connect the new PSU's 24- or 20- 
pin main harness to your mother- 
board's large power connector. It 
should snap into place. Ideally, you 
want to route your power cables 
along the sides and corners of your 
PC's case. If they hang haphazardly 
in the middle, they will block the air- 
flow from your computer's cooling 
fans, raising internal temperatures 
and possibly causing errors later on. 

The 24- or 20-pin main power 
harness will be the stiffest, and thus 
the hardest to route. Try giving it a 
twist in one direction and then 
connect it to your motherboard. 
Next, disconnect it and turn it back 
the other way one or two turns. 
You might find that in one of these 
positions the cable naturally bends 
out of the way. 

8. Attach power cables to the rest of 
your PC's devices. It may take some 
trial and error to get them all con- 
nected properly, as some cables 
may not be long enough to reach 
lower drives or devices. Take your 
time and try to leave 4-pin Molex 
connectors free near the top, 
middle, and bottom of your case. 
This will make it a lot easier to add 
drives or gizmos in the future. Also, 
try to connect power-hungry de- 
vices, such as optical drives, hard 
drives, and video cards (as applic- 
able), on separate cables. 

9. Plug the new PSU's three-pronged 
AC power cable into its rear panel 
receptacle and a power outlet. Next, 
turn on the power supply's on/off 
rocker switch. Double-check all of 
your connections and then turn on 
the PC to test it. It should start nor- 
mally. You won't need to change 
any BIOS (Basic Input/Output Sys- 
tem) settings, and Windows won't 
have to detect the new PSU — it 
should just work. If something goes 
wrong, turn off your PC and check 
your connections again. It's easy to 
overlook the floppy drive and video 
card, for example. 

10. After testing your PC, go back and 
tie up the wire harnesses with plastic 
zip ties. Don't use flimsy ties that 
have wires inside, as you wouldn't 
want a stray wire to short-circuit 
anything. Bundle cables together and 
then tuck them out of the way where 
they won't block airflow. You can at- 
tach wire bunches to a drive bay or 
to a panel in the case with zip ties or 
inexpensive cable management clips. 

Grounding The Sticker Shock 

Your PC will probably run more 
stably with the new PSU. If your new 
power supply is more efficient, it just 
might pay for itself within a year or two 
through the savings reflected on your 
electrical bill. That's powerful stuff. II 

by Marty Sems 

42 October 2006 / 

This Month In 
Plugged In 

Mail Groups: Let Your 
Fingers Do The Talking 

Halloween Web sites 

Mr. M's Learning Curve 

Contributing Writers 

Nathan Lake 

Heidi V. Anderson 

Joshua Gulick 

Mr. Modem 

Next Month 
All About Wiki 

Naked DSL: If s Not 
What It Sounds Like 

Untie Your Landline Phone & DSL Services 

Traditionally, in order 
to receive DSL (Digital 
Subscriber Line) service, 
consumers have been required 
to purchase a phone company's 
landline service. Those who re- 
lied solely on mobile phones but 
needed a high-speed Internet 
connection were forced to pay 
for either cable Internet or DSL 
bundled with a rarely dialed 
landline. Fortunately, you no 
longer need to have your 
phone and DSL services tied 
together. If you want to get rid 
of your landline phone, but wish to 
keep your DSL service, you should con- 
sider what's being called naked DSL. 

Naked DSL is the trendy name for DSL 
without phone service, and it's good news for 
many Web surfers who have cancelled their 
landline telephone services in favor of mobile 
phones. However, don't assume that you'll re- 
duce your monthly bill by simply removing 
your phone service. Naked DSL may actually 
end up costing the same as or more than your 
standard DSL-landline bundle. 

The Naked Part Of DSL 

If you feel uncomfortable asking your phone 
provider for naked DSL, there's no need to blush 
on the other end of the receiver. You can refer to 
the service as standalone, dry loop, dry line, or 
unbundled DSL. It's called naked or standalone 
because the physical phone line doesn't provide 
an active dial tone. Therefore, the DSL signal is 
"naked" or stands alone on the phone line. Naked 
DSL runs through the same phone line and is nei- 
ther faster nor slower than traditional DSL service. 

Bells Are Ringing 

We compared prices for 
three naked DSL providers: 
Qwest, Verizon, and AT&T. 
All three companies offer 
their bundled DSL and 
phone services in a similar 
price range, but their naked 
DSL prices vary greatly. 
The amount of taxes and 
surcharges your state applies 
will affect whether AT&T Yahoo! 
naked DSL will save you money. 
AT&T spokesperson Brad Mays 
says, "We typically say to add $12 to 
$15 per month for taxes, fees, and sur- 
charges with a service such as All Distance 
Select." The cheapest AT&T DSL bundle in- 
cludes its Express DSL (downloads up to 1.5Mbps 
[megabits per second] ) with local phone service 
for $28.99 before taxes and surcharges. The stand- 
alone AT&T Express DSL price is $44.95. Once 
you add taxes and surcharges, the cost could fluc- 
tuate only a few dollars between the two services. 

To find out if AT&T standalone DSL is avail- 
able in your area, visit Click 
Residential and enter your ZIP code. Click the 
View All Internet Services link. (If you don't see 
this link, your state likely will not be able to re- 
ceive AT&T DSL.) Click the Popular Plans link. 
Click the Check My Address For High-Speed 
Internet link, enter your address, and AT&T will 
verify if DSL service is available at your residence. 

Save Some Pretty Pennies 

Verizon's naked DSL costs around $25 a 
month less than its DSL and landline package, 
and those savings stand out when comparing 
Verizon to other naked DSL providers. You can 

Smart Computing / October 2006 43 


Naked DSL 

receive Verizon's naked DSL that oper- 
ates at up to 768Kbps (kilobits per 
second) for $19.95 a month or at 
3Mbps for $34.99 a month. Purchasing 
a Local Calling Verizon landline would 
run you an additional $20 to $30, plus 
taxes and surcharges. Current Verizon 
landline customers who want to switch 
to naked DSL have the option to 
transfer their telephone numbers to a 
wireless number, or they can simply 
drop their Verizon landline to receive 
standalone DSL. Verizon DSL includes 
your choice of Verizon Yahoo! for DSL 
or Verizon Online DSL with MSN 
Premium services. You can visit 
nels/dsl/dryloop to check the avail- 
ability of Verizon's naked DSL service. 

Every Qwest DSL tier is offered as a 
naked DSL service. If you were to 
choose Qwest DSL service alone it 
would cost around $20 a month less 
than traditional Qwest DSL. For 
example, if you purchase Qwest 
Choice DSL Deluxe (downloads up to 
1.5Mbps), it regularly costs $44.99, and 
Qwest Choice DSL Deluxe bundled 
with landline service would regularly 
cost $65.99, plus taxes and surcharges. 

Qwest offers naked DSL in Qwest 
Choice Basic (downloads up to 
256Kbps), Qwest Choice Deluxe, and 
Qwest Choice Premier (downloads up 
to 3 to 5Mbps). All tiers of Qwest DSL 
include MSN Premium, which pro- 
vides security and tools for your 
broadband connection. You can visit 
/resaddressQual.html to see if your ad- 
dress qualifies to receive Qwest DSL. 

Widen Your Search & Your Wallet 

You don't necessarily have to 
purchase DSL from a phone com- 
pany. You can receive naked DSL 
from a broadband specialist, such as 
Speakeasy (, which 
reaches every state in the continental 
United States. 

Once you contact a broadband 
specialist, it will get in touch with an 
ILEC (Incumbent Local Exchange 

Carrier), and the ILEC will send an 
order to form a loop (thus the term 
dry loop or dry line) from the central 
office to your location. This could 
require splicing a new phone line to 
your residence or utilizing existing 
lines. Once the ILEC creates the 
loop, the broadband specialist will 
test and set up the connection, which 
may cost a fee. In addition to a con- 
nection fee, service from a broad- 
band DSL specialist could cost quite 
a bit more than the phone compa- 
nies' DSL services. For example, for 
around $55 a month both Speakeasy 
and Lightning Bolt Technologies 
( offer DSL with a 
download speed of 1.5Mbps and an 
upload speed of 384Kbps. Speakeasy 
offers two services: Line-Share DSL, 
which requires a phone service, and 
OneLink DSL, which does not re- 
quire phone service. To check the 
availability of Speakeasy DSL, you 
can either call (800) 556-5829 or visit 
the company's Web site. 

Lightning Bolt Technologies pro- 
vides naked DSL in Dry Line 
Residential Basic (1.5Mbps down- 
load, 128Kbps upload) and Dry Line 
Residential (1.5Mbps download, 
384Kbps upload) DSL. You can 
check the availability of Lightning 
Bolt's dry line DSL by calling (866) 
241-9939, or visit 
/ availab ility . html . 

Make First Contact 

Even if standalone DSL is not 
listed on a company's Web site, you 
should still ask about it. Because the 
service is so new, your provider may 
not have information about it 
posted on its Web site yet. We sug- 
gest contacting your DSL provider 
via email as opposed to calling be- 
cause it will give a representative 
time to gather information about 
standalone DSL and how much it 
will cost. Once you reach a knowl- 
edgeable representative, double- 
check that the provider's DSL service 
is available to your residence. Get a 

price quote for both standalone DSL 
and DSL bundled with landline ser- 
vices. Ask the rep to include local 
landline phone taxes and surcharges 
with the bundled DSL price. 

If multiple providers offer naked 
DSL to your location, examine both 
their costs and speeds available; one 
naked DSL provider may charge a 
few dollars less for service but only 
offer half the speed of a similarly 
priced provider. 

Naked DSL Voice Options 

Now that you've gotten rid of your 
landline, you may need to make other 
arrangements for phone service. If 
you already own a mobile phone and 
are content with its service, stick with 
that provider. However, if you're not 
happy with your wireless service or 
don't own a mobile phone, look into 
bundling your naked DSL with that 
provider's wireless options. 

For example, through AT&T you 
can bundle AT&T Express DSL 
(1.5Mbps for $44.95) or Pro DSL 
(3Mbps for $49.95) with Cingular 
Wireless' Nation 450 w/Rollover plan 
($39.99) for $80 and $85 a month, re- 
spectively. If you previously used your 
landline for local calls, you may need 
to invest in a mobile phone plan with 
more or unlimited minutes. You also 
can utilize your DSL's high-speed con- 
nection with a VoIP (Voice over 
Internet Protocol) provider. VoIP uses 
the Internet to send and receive tele- 
phone calls and can be less expensive 
than a traditional phone service be- 
cause many VoIP providers offer un- 
limited local and long-distance plans. 

Use this article as a guide to 
find and purchase naked DSL. 
Visit and email DSL providers' Web 
sites and then compare the options 
available to what you're currently 
paying for phone and DSL ser- 
vices. Your monthly budget could 
reflect an investigation of naked 
DSL as time well spent. II 

by Nathan Lake 

44 October 2006 / 


Let Your Fingers 
Do The Talking 

Mail Groups Cover A Wide Range Of Topics 

The Internet has radically 
changed the way we commu- 
nicate, so much that it's hard 
to remember what communication 
was like 15 or so years ago. Consider 
email, which lets us communicate 
with one another by sending and re- 
ceiving messages anytime we like. Or 
the Web, which gives individuals, 
businesses, and other organizations 
the ability to communicate by post- 
ing family photos, journals, product 
information, mission statements, and 
much, much more. Or online bul- 
letin boards in the early 1990s, which 
were popular ways for people to ex- 
change postings on topics that inter- 
ested them. 

There's an application that com- 
bines elements of all of these and al- 
lows us to communicate in yet another 
way. Once a concept known as mailing 

lists but that has morphed into 
"groups," mail groups let us meet vir- 
tually with others who share our inter- 
ests. Harley riders, book clubs, satellite 
technicians, pediatricians, in- 
^ surance agents, stay-at-home 
4) dads, farmers, returned Peace 
# Corps volunteers from 
4) Lesotho — all these people 
£ and others communicate 
via mail groups. 

The Big Picture 

Here's the 30-second 
overview of how a mail 
group works. You find a 
group that interests you, and 
you join. When you want to 
"talk" to others in the group, you 
send an email message to the group, 
and a copy of your message is 
emailed to each group member's 
email inbox. Plus, anytime anyone 
else sends a message to the group, a 
copy of that message appears in 
everyone's email inbox, including 
yours. Messages may also be posted 
online in a browsable message board, 
depending on the group. 

Most groups are free to join because 
they're supported by advertising, and 
they range in size from a handful of 
people to thousands of members. 
Groups may be either public or private. 
If it is a private group, it is open to only 
a select few, pending approval by the 
group's "owner," or leader. Another 
characteristic of groups is that they 
may be moderated. (In which case, 
messages are approved by the group's 
leader before they are sent to the entire 

group.) In addition, groups often carry 
features such as a calendar, polls, photo 
sharing, chat rooms, and more. 

Mail groups are hosted by Web 
sites, such as MSN or Google. One of 
the most famous homes of mail 
groups is Yahoo!, which was one of 
the earliest Web sites to develop the 
concept of mail groups. Back in the 
day, a mailing list was email only, 
and it was called a listserv. Many of 
the lists were reserved for techies, 
most lists were based in the United 
States, and you couldn't manage 
your subscription via the Web. (In 
fact, email mailing lists predate the 
graphical World Wide Web.) But 
nowadays, billions of users take part 
in mail groups worldwide, and these 
groups are no longer an arena for 
techies only. 

For instance, take a look at all the 
groups on MSN, found at groups MSN places groups into 
one of 17 categories: Automotive, 
Business, Computers 8c Internet, 
Entertainment, Games, Health 8c 
Wellness, Home 8c Families, Life- 
styles, Money 8c Investing, News 8c 
Politics, Organizations, People, Places 
8c Travel, Religion 8c Beliefs, Schools 
8c Education, Science 8c History, and 
Sports 8c Recreation. 

Each group is broken into subcate- 
gories. For instance, the Computers 8c 
Internet group has a subcategory 
called Operating Systems, which is 
further broken down into another 
subcategory called Windows XP, and 
at press time, it numbered 351 groups. 
You could get help from others in the 
Windows XP Info group, learn about 
Office XP in the Office XP For Real 
People group, or pick up some cool 
fonts in the Font-Zone group. 

Take Part In A Group 

Let's walk through the steps of 
joining and using a group, so you can 
see for yourself how one works. We'll 
start with Yahoo! Groups, which is cur- 
rently home to millions of mail groups. 
It's impossible to get an accurate count 

Smart Computing / October 2006 45 


Mail Groups 

MSN is home to mail groups 
covering topics that range 
from auto racing to zebras. 

of how many Yahoo! groups there are 
at any given time, because groups are 
constantly being born and put to rest. 
But to give you an idea, in the Business 
& Finance category, for example, at last 
count there were 207,658 groups — and 
Business & Finance is just one of 16 
top-level categories. 

Let's head to 
and browse the mail group listings. 
Select the Science category, keeping in 
mind that we also could use the search 
engine to look for a specific topic. 
Click the Biology subcategory and 
continue to click other subcate- 
gories — Animals, Mammals, Dogs, 
and Training And Obedience — until 
we land one that looks interesting: 
Agbeh. (Yes, the name first strikes us 
as strange, too.) This relatively large 
group, with more than 3,000 mem- 
bers, advertises itself thus: "Here in the 
Aggressive Behaviors In Dogs group, 
with approximately 480 experienced 
dog trainers from around the world, 
we discuss with pet dog owners how to 
modify the behavior of dogs " 

Click the group listing, and you'll 
see a page devoted to this group. The 
page carries information including a 
few paragraphs describing the group; 
a calendar showing the number of 
posts each day; and instructions for 
contacting the list owner, subscribing 
to the group, and posting a message. 

To join the group, you can either 
send an email to the list owner or click 
the Join This Group button in the 
bottom- right corner, which takes you 

to an online form. (You 
will be asked to sign in 
as a Yahoo! member in 
order to join a group. 
You will need to sign in 
using your Yahoo! ID 
and password, or if you 
are not a member of 
Yahoo!, you can create 
a profile by clicking the 
Sign Up link.) Fill out the form, 
click the Join button, and a minute 
later, you'll receive a message from 
the group moderator. After reading 
through this detailed message, if you 
decide it is an appropriate group to 
join, reply to the message. Shortly af- 
terward, you'll receive your first mes- 
sages in your inbox and see first-hand 
what group members are discussing. 

It's good group etiquette to stay 
silent when you first join a new group 
in order to get a feel for what a group 
is all about. Once you have that under- 
standing, go ahead and send messages 
to others in the group. It's also worth 
noting that with Yahoo! Groups, you 
have the option to receive messages 
either in your email boxes individually, 
as a digest sent via email, or to read 
them on a group's Web page rather 
than receive them via email. 

The Best, The Biggest & The Easiest 

Now that you know how mail 
groups work, which ones should you 
join? Which ones are the best? The 
answer depends on you and your per- 
sonal interests. 

The main factor in choosing a 
group is the topic. If you're interested 
in, say, mystery novels, you have thou- 
sands of groups from which to choose. 
The best group for someone who en- 
joys cozy Miss Marple books may not 
be best for someone who revels in 
hard-boiled Mike Hammer paper- 
backs, because groups devoted to 

those topics are likely to attract those 
with different tastes and interests. 

To find the best groups for you, we 
recommend you search the main sites 
that host groups, such as Yahoo!, MSN, 
and Google ( and 
enter keywords in their search engines. 

Some groups have universal ap- 
peal. For instance, in April 2005, we 
wrote an article about mail groups 
that fall under the large umbrella of 
Freecycle, which is made up of nearly 
2.4 million people around the globe 
who post messages offering un- 
wanted belongings to keep them 
from being thrown in a landfill. We'll 
go out on a limb and say there are 
very few folks who aren't interested 
in finding free stuff. 

On the other end of the spectrum, 
you'll find niche groups, many of 
which were created by already estab- 
lished groups for the purpose of com- 
municating internally. In many of 
these cases, you may not be eligible to 
join the group. For example, one of 
our Smart Computing writers is the 
moderator of a group devoted to 
women's hockey in Colorado. The 
group is listed in Yahoo! Groups, but 
it's a private group. If you have an in- 
terest in this topic, however, you can 
find other, public mail groups online. 

Another factor to consider when 
choosing a group is that it's easiest to 
join a group when you're already a 
member of the group host's site. For 
example, if you want to join a Google 
group, you first need to create a Google 
account or have a Gmail account. Or, if 
you already have a .NET Passport, you 
might want to explore MSN's groups 
before you look elsewhere. 

No matter what groups you end up 
joining, you're likely to find yourself 
communicating with someone who 
shares the same interests as you. And 
who knows — it could be a Harley- 
riding, book-loving, satellite TV- 
watching, pediatrician who has 
recently returned from a Peace Corps 
stint in Lesotho. II 

by Heidi V.Anderson 

46 October 2006 / 



Enhance Your Time Online 

Problem: I love to shop 
online, but I also love 
going through the Sunday 
paper looking for coupons. 
Where can I find some 
special savings online? 
Solution: Good deals come 
in many forms, from in- 
stant rebates to recondi- 
tioned items. Keeping track 
of where and when the best 
deals pop up is now addic- 
tively easy with Fat Wallet 
( The 
home page offers standard 
things such as price com- 
parisons and store reviews, 
but you have to head over 
to the forums (www. fat for the 
really great info. Users post 
coupon codes and big bar- 
gains that they've spotted 
out in the wild. Many are 
limited-time offers, and 
some are honestly too good 
to believe. As always, caveat 
emptor — be sure to read 
through the posts to find 
out if today's hot deal is 
right for you. 

More Movie Info 

Problem: I wish there were 
a Web site about movies 

that was a little more fan- 
friendly. As useful as the 
Internet Movie Database 
is, it's about as fun as 
reading a spreadsheet. 
Solution: The IMDb 
( is a 
wealth of information about 
film and TV production. It 
can be an easy one-stop des- 
tination for answering such 
trivia as when a movie was 
released or who starred in a 
particular flick. If you're 
looking for more editorial, 
though, All Movie guide 
( is a 
good option. This movie 
lover's site is filled with de- 
cent plot synopses and fair 
reviews (no stuffy critics 
here). (Also, check out its 
older sibling site, All Music 
[] .) 

Traffic, Bad; 
Ir a .ffL c ^ c .PlI!^Mtt e . r ..... 

Problem: I know there are 
a number of sites that tell 
you what the traffic condi- 
tions are like, but I never 
think to check them until 
I'm stuck in gridlock. 
Solution: For those of us 
who don't want to wake up 
in the morning and check a 

#+ Chicago area traffic map 

Although it 

covers only 

40 major 


cities in the 

United States, 

continues to 


1 D^)l IVSO Roll your own search engine. 

1 **em a^^^ Create personal search engines ^^^^^^^^ 
/*^^^v^^B Lisinq cnly tre sn^rces yo- trust. HHL 
^S^^H Relevant. Reliable. Rollyo. S> 

^^^^ 1 Lcim more About ftollyo ^^B B^HF 

■ ^mj AnannasTop ■ 
T\?J Political a lag* 

1 By: An anna HufHngton 

H Shopping 

By: Debra Messina 

I.— m String Theory 
Dy- Brian Greene 

Rollo offers 
a fun, easy 
way to narrow 
your searches 
to a specific 
set of sites. 

traffic Web page first thing, 
there's a new feature at (www. traffic 
.com) that might make 
things a bit easier. After 
free registration, this site 
allows you to set up and 
save your commute (which 
the site calls a drive). For 
every saved drive, you can 
have the site send you a 
report by email, text mes- 
sage, or automated voice 
call. Even better, you can 
request a report be sent to 
you only if the traffic con- 
dition exceeds a certain 
Jam Factor rating on a 
scale of 1 to 10. 


Problem: I've been collab- 
orating on a presentation 
with a co-worker, but it 
seems silly to constantly 
send Microsoft Word and 
PowerPoint files back and 
forth as email attachments. 
Solution: Robust online 
email clients such as 
Hotmail, Yahoo! Mail, and 
Gmail have made some 
folks abandon their tradi- 
tional email programs in 
favor of these online-only 
flavors. Now some office 
productivity programs are 
marching in that direction. 

Check out the varied offer- 
ings from Zoho (www Its presenta- 
tion (Zoho Show), spread- 
sheet (Zoho Sheet), and 
word processing (Zoho 
Writer) programs are com- 
pletely free. Once you reg- 
ister (there's no download 
or installation required), 
you can create documents 
that others can see and edit 
online. And not to worry: 
You can import and export 
into Microsoft file formats. 

Problem: When I search 
using one of the big engines, 
I feel like it brings too many 
results from sites that aren't 
relevant. I wish they could 
be a little more focused. 
Solution: A neat site called 
Rollo ( al- 
lows you to build what it 
calls custom search en- 
gines, which really means 
you choose a list of sites 
and the search engine 
searches only those sites. 
Even better than spending 
time setting up a custom 
search is using someone 
else's: The Explore section 
has lists of the most pop- 
ular Searchrolls that you 
can use for yourself. 

Smart Computing / October 2006 47 




Online Haunts 

Bee Dogs 

This weirdly addictive site dedicates 
its little corner of the Web to pictures 
of dogs in bee costumes. That's right: 
The Internet has enough bee dog pic- 
tures to warrant an entire bee dog Web 
site. You'll find Boston Terriers, pugs, 
labs, pit bulls, and even pet owners 
dressed as bees. The bee costumes vary 
in quality — some have wings and 
many even have antennae — but all are 
funny (perhaps even cute). Bee Dogs 
isn't scary (well, your dog may cower 
under your chair when you visit the 
site), but it's great Halloween costume 
fun. If you're interested in adopting a 
bee dog, check out Sage, who comes 
complete with a full bee outfit. 

Whether you're looking for a little 
Halloween history, some creepy sto- 
ries, or a few haunted screen savers, 
you'll want to make 
your first stop. The site takes every- 
thing Halloween seriously: The main 
page even has a Days Until Halloween 
countdown. We like the Halloween 
News section, which links to scary 
movie reviews and other Halloween- 
related articles. Kids can explore the 
family-oriented site without run- 
ning into anything particularly gory 
or inappropriate. They'll enjoy the 

Halloween stories, jokes, and mask- 
making instructions, and their par- 
ents will like the Halloween Safety 
Tips section. Be sure to check out the 
site's haunted forums. 

Skip the crowded Halloween stores 
that pop up every fall. This site has 
tons of great costumes for everyone in 
your family, from babies to adults. Of 
course, scary props are an important 
part of Halloween, so we're glad to see 
that it offers music, movies, and plenty 
of creepy accessories. If you're looking 
for something particularly unnerving, 
check out the Gortraits, which are pic- 
tures that change from pleasant por- 
traits to reveal ghoulish scenes. The Pet 
Costumes section is huge, but we no- 
ticed that it doesn't offer a bee dog 
costume. Sparky may have to settle for 
the Moo Doggie outfit. 

Who can forget Michael Myers, the 
mask- wearing murderer who stalked 
Jamie Lee Curtis and other family 
members through one movie after an- 
other? If you're a "Halloween" fan, 
check out the site's clips, cast lists, be- 
hind-the-scenes information, and still 
images. "Halloween" aficionados can 
discuss various scenes and other 
"Halloween"-related topics via the 
"Halloween" forums. The site also in- 
cludes news about the upcoming 
"Halloween" movie, as well as an inter- 
view with the new flick's writer. Don't 
overlook the Features section, which 
has "Halloween" screen savers, a creepy 
font, and other "Halloween" treats. 

Every year, haunted houses open 
their doors to crowds of people who 

Compiled by Joshua Gulick 
Illustrated by Lindsay Anker 

are willing to pay good money to have 
the daylights scared out of them. If 
you're one of these people (or the 
chauffeur for your children or grand- 
children), use to 
find nearby haunted houses. The site's 
Haunt Directory features a clickable 
map: Once you select your state, it 
displays a list of local haunted houses. 
Each listing includes the haunted 
house's location, Web address, and a 
link to a detailed profile that of- 
fers hours and pricing information. also has directo- 
ries for other Halloween businesses, 
including sound effects and scary 
props companies.'s authors refer to this 
site's animated horrors as "Fright Lite," 
which sounds right to us: This haunted 
Web site is very kid-friendly. As your 
child rolls the pointer over gravedig- 
gers, crypts, and tombstones, various 
creepy- crawlies will appear and move 
around the page. The site leans more 
toward funny than creepy and offers 
hours of exploration: Expect to see a 
zombie comedian who tells a variety of 
ghastly jokes, a snake- wearing fortune 
teller, and Dr. Heebie Jeebies. 

The Dead Letter Office 

The Dead Letter Office lets visitors 
leave messages that it never delivers. 
Whether you deliver the message (via 
a unique Web address that the Dead 
Letter Office sends to your email ac- 
count) is up to you. As the Dead Let- 
ter Office points out, you could give 
the link to your message's recipient 
right away, or you could keep the ad- 
dress in your purse or wallet and wait 
for that person to find it when you 
die. Whether you have a morbid sense 
of humor or want to leave serious 
notes for surviving friends and family, 
the Dead Letter Office will host your 
message. Be forewarned, however, 
that the Office lets visitors browse the 
messages it stores. 

48 October 2006 / 


Find It Online 



To You 

Finding the appropriate Usenet discussion 
group to match your interests can be a 
monumental task. So each month, we 
scour tens of thousands of newsgroups 
and highlight ones that delve into popular 
topics. If your ISP (Internet service pro- 
vider) doesn't carry these groups, ask it to 
add the groups to its list. This month, we 
see what's brewing in Usenet's cauldron. 


Do you stalk bookstore aisles in 
search of horror stories? Share 
your love of creepy tales with this 
group. Members here discuss books 
and movies and sometimes list 
their favorites. 


If you're interested in ghostly 
events, check out this group. You 
may not find many threads that dis- 
cuss horror books or movies, but 
you'll find plenty of people who are 
hunting for ghosts. 

Parents will love this group, 
especially when Halloween rolls 
around. You can trade tips 
and tricks for using home 
items as Halloween 
props or discuss the 
ins and outs of 
black lights. 

Some of the best apples in the online orchard are the free (or free to try) 
programs available for download. Each month we feature highlights from 
our pickings. This month, we bewitch your computer. 

3D Spooky Halloween Screensaver 1.0 

Nothing gets us in the mood for Halloween as much as a creepy screen 
saver. Astro Gemini Software's 3D Spooky Halloween Screensaver features 
a lonely, haunted house. As the camera moves around the yard, you'll see 
ghosts, Jack O' Lanterns, and witches, among other creepy Halloween char- 
acters. We love the realistic images: You'll see tree shadows on the ground, 
a lifelike raven, mist, and a scarecrow that sways in the wind. 

Installing the 3D Spooky Halloween Screensaver is a snap. Once you 
download the EXE file, you'll need to double-click it and then walk through 
the brief, easy-to-use setup wizard, which wraps up by opening your PC's 
Display Properties window. If you want to start the screen saver without 
changing options, simply click OK, but if you want to poke around the 
program's options, click the Settings button. 

Here you can disable the creepy music, as well as the clock that runs in 
the corner of the screen saver. You can also configure the screen saver to 
continue running when you accidentally move the mouse. That's a nice 
touch, as simple vibration (from someone bumping into the desk, for ex- 
ample) can move the mouse enough to trigger the screen saver. You can 
also brighten up the dark scenes via the configuration menu's gamma con- 
trol feature. 

The 3D Spooky Halloween Screensaver supports Windows 
9x/Me/2000/XP and re- 
quires a video card that has 
at least 32MB of memory. 
Try a limited version of 
screen saver free or buy the 
full version for $14.95. 

Halloween III 

If you're looking for a 
Halloween game that 
won't scare your children 
look no further. Breadie- 
Quest: Halloween III has 
plenty of action and some violence (your 
character must shoot the monsters that are 
disrupting a Halloween party), but 
lacks scary creatures. Even 
the severed hand ap- 

Astro Gemini's spooky software 
haunts your computer with 
ghosts and witches. You'll spot 
monsters lurking in the nearby 
forest, as well. 

pears to be almost 

friendly. Your child will guide Breadie through the 
\ maze-like house so he can pick up special items 
and fight the various monsters. Try 
BreadieQuest: Halloween III free or buy it for 
$18. It supports Win98 and newer. I 

Smart Computing / October 2006 49 

M r 



Flatten The PC Learning Curve 

Using a computer can be challenging, to say the 
least, but despite appearances, flattening the 
learning curve is within your grasp. Trust me. 

Not a week goes by that I don't receive email prefaced 
with the words, "I'm so frustrated . . ." or "My computer is 
driving me crazy ..." or "Where's that $20 I loaned 
you in 1972?" I feel the pain, as the learning 
process is indeed frustrating at times. 

Frustration, however, is a state of 
mind and nothing else. 

The most important thing to keep 
in mind about frustration as it re- 
lates to computing is that it's 
normal, it's to be expected, and it 
affects every computer user at 
one time or another. The key to 
frustration management is recog- 
nizing when you've crossed the 
threshold from frustration that 
motivates you to accomplish a 
particular task or to resolve a 
problem, to frustration that's im- 
mobilizing — the type of frustration 
usually accompanied by the words "I'd 
like to throw this thing out the window." 

When you reach that point, you not only 
need to recognize that it's time to walk away, but 
even more importantly, you must have the discipline to ac- 
tually walk away. If you continue to try to resolve a problem 
when your blood pressure is escalating as rapidly as your 
level of frustration, there's a good chance you're going to 
make things worse than they already are. As a world- 
renowned philosopher once observed, "You've got to know 
when to hold 'em; know when to fold 'em. And have some 
chicken while you're at it." Well, something like that. 

Once you engage in a self-imposed time-out from your 
computer, you can then return to any daunting task or per- 
plexing problem in a few hours, when you're in a better 
mental place to deal with the challenge at hand. You'll be 
amazed how much easier things are when you don't permit 
frustration to be your partner in the problem-solving process. 

I've spent many a blissful weekend repeatedly testing the 
speed of my Internet connection. Sure, some might say such 
antisocial behavior is tantamount to a desperate cry for 
help, but if you're curious what your connection speed is at 
any given moment, check out the Speakeasy Speed Test at An animated graphic will dis- 
play while testing is underway, and your upload and down- 
load speeds will appear at its conclusion. (No wagering, 
please.) Keep in mind that connection- speed results vary, so 
check your speed at various times of the day and night. 

If you need to know the size of a folder or of a single file 
(or married one, for that matter), an easy way to accomplish 
this is to click once to select (highlight) a file or folder, then 
press ALT-ENTER. The Properties dialog box will display 
information about your selected file or folder, in- 
cluding Type, Location, Size, and the 
date it was created. 

BOh, those darned kids these 
days! Compound Security, in 
Wales, has invented a sound 
generator called The Mosquito 
that emits an annoying sound 
only young people can hear. 
The device is marketed to pre- 
vent loitering on commercial 
properties. Other business estab- 
lishments blast Barry Manilow 
music, which seems to have the 
same crowd- dissipating effect. I 
don't know why. Can there ever 
be too much "Mandy"? 

The same sound emitted by 
The Mosquito is now being 
downloaded as a ring tone that 
students use so that ancient teachers 
(those over 30) can't hear them. The 
prof-proof tone is being used as an alert for in- 
coming text messages. School administrators are not 
amused, nor are the folks at Compound Security, but I sup- 
pose we have to give the kids high marks for their ingenuity. 
In order to install or reinstall Windows, or a component 
thereof, you'll need your Windows Product Key. The 
Product Key is usually found on a yellow sticker on the jewel 
case of the Windows installation CD, or on a sticker on the 
back of the PC itself, if the operating system was installed by 
the manufacturer. If you find yourself Keyless in Seattle (or 
any other location, for that matter), all is not lost. The 
Magical Jelly Bean Keyfmder ( is a 
free program that will retrieve the Product Key from your 
Windows Registry. It has options to copy the key to the 
Windows Clipboard, save it to a text file, or print it for safe- 
keeping (highly recommended). 

Wishing you a treat-laden, trick- free Halloween! II 

by Mr. Modem 

Mr. Modem (Richard Sherman) is an author, syndicated 
columnist, radio host, and publisher. "Mr. Modem's Weekl 
Newsletter" provides personal responses to subscribers' com} 
and Internet questions, plus weekly computing tips, Web sit 
recommendations, virus alerts, hoax warnings, and more. 
For additional information, visit 

50 October 2006 / 


Smart Computing Online Chat Rooms: 

Stop By & Chat 

Finding the computing an- 
swers you need can be an 
intimidating, even daunting, 
task. But 
provides you with an informal, 
easy-to-use chat room where 
you can discuss everything from 
computer problems to the latest 
issue of Smart Computing with 
fellow readers. Don't forget to 
check out the Frequently Asked 
Questions section and Rules Of 
The Board. The busiest times 
for chat rooms usually start 
around 8 p.m. CST. Getting 
started is easy — here's how: 

1 After logging in, click the Computing Chat Room link 
on the left side of the home page. 

2 Read the Frequently Asked Questions and Rules Of 
The Board at the top of the page. 

Smart Computing® Chat 

:. ... . . 


3 There are six rooms to choose from; rooms with 
people already chatting in them are noted with 
the number of users in parentheses next to the 
room number. 

4 Click the numbered chat room link you wish to enter 
(note that Chat Room 1 is usually busiest). 

You'll see a list of current chat users on the right, in 
different colors, and the conversation in the main 
screen on the left. 

1 To change the way messages display, the screen re- 
fresh rate, and the font size, click the Chat Preferences 
link. Select your preferences and click Save. 

2 Join the conversation by entering a comment in 
the Type In Comment box and clicking the 
Send/Refresh button. 

3 When you finish chatting, click Exit Room. 

The phrase "teddy bear" 
appears exactly 26 times on We 
counted in honor of Elvis 
Presley's teddy bear, Mabel, 
which was recently mauled by 
a guard dog named Barney at 
a British children's museum. 

Unfortunately, the ano- 
nymity that the Internet 
provides can lead to a lot of 
dishonesty. To keep yourself 
safe in chat rooms all over 
the Web, never provide per- 
sonal information to fellow 
chatters and don't agree to 
meet someone in person. 
Also, choose usernames that 

don't divulge any personal information (use MaryAlice3321 
instead of MaryAliceDekalb). 

If you have young kids, be sure to monitor their online chatting 
activities. You'll do yourself a favor, too, if you take a crash course 
in IM/chat room lingo. One especially 
useful one to know is POS, 
which stands for "parent 
over shoulder." 


The word "chat" comes from the middle English 
word "chatten," which is short for chatteren. 

Smart Computing / October 2006 51 

Cover Story Contents 




Resolve Your Install & Uninstall 
Problems With These Techniques 

There's no denying that Windows is a tremen- 
dous improvement over its DOS ancestor. 
After all, could any of us really live without 
drag-and-drop, multitasking, or a mouse- 
based interface? The downside to Windows' 
convenient GUI (graphical user interface) is that the OS 
(operating system) is extremely complicated under the 
hood, so a few things have actually become worse since 
DOS was king. The software install/uninstall process is 
one of them. 

In DOS, every program that was installed had its own 
folder (or directory), and all the files necessary to run the 

program were copied there. If you decided to uninstall the 
software, the process was incredibly straightforward: You 
simply deleted the folder, and the program was gone. 

Try this same process in Windows, and you're asking for 
trouble. Some Windows programs are still installed in self- 
contained folders, but they are rare exceptions. Most often, an 
installer program is launched that places many files in a pro- 
gram folder but scatters hundreds of other files all over your 
hard drive and makes changes to a number of system files. 

One place programs hook themselves into is the 
Windows Registry, which is a large database that stores all 
of the settings established on your Windows system. 

52 October 2006 / 

Registry entries remain even if the program's folder is 
deleted. Leftover Registry entries can contribute to longer 
Windows boot times, lead to Windows instability, and po- 
tentially cause crashes. 

Windows programs also dump shortcuts in the Start 
menu, in the Quick Launch on the Taskbar, and onto the 
Desktop. This makes launching programs very convenient, 
but it also means that if you simply delete the program's 
folder, the shortcuts stick around. 

Software that is designed to launch when Windows boots 
inserts itself into the Startup folder or in another folder on 
the hard drive separate from the program's folder so that 
Windows knows where to load it. Deleting the program's 
folder leaves these files behind. They still try to launch, but 
because the program no longer exists, an error message is 
generated instead. 

Of course, Windows comes with an Add/Remove 
Software utility designed to help users remove software from 
their computers, but this tool is also rife with problems. 
Information necessary for the uninstallation procedure is 
collected and stored during the installation. However, that 
information isn't always complete, sometimes becomes 

corrupt, and often becomes outdated. For example, if you 
move or rename a program's folder, the uninstall data isn't 
automatically updated to reflect the change. All of these is- 
sues can cause problems during and after the uninstall 
process. For instance, files may be left behind that should 
have been deleted, or your existing applications may fail to 
function properly. 

Worse still, some software is designed to bypass the 
uninstall process so it never fully leaves your computer. For 
instance, programs from companies such as AOL and 
Symantec are notoriously difficult to uninstall using the 
tools integrated with Windows. 

Fortunately, the articles in this section will help you fight 
back and completely zap troublesome software from your 
computer. Whether you're having problems installing soft- 
ware, or you're trying to evict a program that absolutely re- 
fuses to see the door, there are tools and techniques that 
will help you gain control of your system. The solutions 
aren't always elegant, but at least they don't leave us pining 
for the DOS days. II 

by Tracy Baker 

Smart Computing / October 2006 53 

Secrets For Successful Software Setups 

Recognizing the value of a good first im- 
pression, software developers design 
their products to install easily. And 
most of the time, they do. But occasionally 
something unexpected happens. Maybe the in- 
stallation locks up, an error appears, or a 
system crashes. Whatever goes wrong, users 
typically blame the software developer. That 
might not be entirely fair, however. 

Many problems that arise during an installa- 
tion typically occur because the user failed to 
follow sound installation practices. Learning the 
fundamentals of a proper software setup can 
help you avoid these problems in the future. 

Prep Work 

Preparing your PC to accept new software is 
the most important thing you can do to ensure 
the success of your next installation. It doesn't 
take much time to prepare for an installation, 
and the results are certainly worth the effort. 

Stabilize the system. Adding new software to 
an unstable system is like pouring coffee into a 
paper bag; you're almost certain to have a big 
mess on your hands. That's why 
you first need to make sure your 
PC is healthy enough to support 
the new application. 

Start by getting rid of un- 
wanted applications. Go to the 
Start menu, click Control Panel, 
and then select Add Or Remove 
Programs (Add/Remove Pro- 
grams in Windows 98/Me). In 
the resulting dialog box, review 
the list of currently installed 

programs. Highlight each program you no 
longer use, select its corresponding Remove 
or Change/Remove button, and then follow 
the uninstall instructions. Reboot the PC 
after each uninstall and repeat the process 
until the only programs on your PC are those 
you actually use. 

Next, clean away the digital debris that has 
accumulated on your PC. Open the Start 
menu, select All Programs (Programs in 
Win98/Me), Accessories, System Tools, and 
then click Disk Cleanup. Wait while the utility 
scans your system for potentially unnecessary 
data, including temporary files and down- 
loaded program files. Review its findings and, 
unless you have a particular reason for 
changing the default settings, click OK and 
Disk Cleanup will delete the unnecessary files. 

This is also a good time to scan your system 
for viruses using an updated edition of your 
preferred antivirus utility. We also recommend 
running ScanDisk (if available) and Disk 
Defragmenter. These utilities, which are avail- 
able in the System Tools folder, will check the 
hard drive for problems and eliminate weak 

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In most cases, an 
installer will launch 
the installation 
automatically after 
you insert the setup 
disc. If it doesn't, 
go to the Start 
menu and open the 
Run dialog box to 
search the media 
for a Setup.exe file. 

54 October 2006 / 


How To Install & Uninstall 

spots that can crash an installation. 
You can skip these last steps if you 
perform them regularly as part of 
your computer maintenance routine. 
(You do have a routine, right?) 

Check system requirements. Like 
loading a 3 -ton anchor on a rowboat, 
installing heavy-duty software on an 

toa^BM^H hh — ill 

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Setup has detec- lible software: 

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| Yes || No 

Many installers provide detailed instructions 
about the installation process. Follow the 
instructions and recommendations for best 
results. In this instance, we had to remove a 
potentially conflicting application. 

under-equipped PC is a sure way to 
sink an installation. Read the system 
requirements of any software you plan 
to install and compare them to the ac- 
tual specifications of your computer. 
To obtain information about your 
system, read the users manual or pe- 
ruse the System Information utility, 
which is accessible through the System 
Tools folder. 

Don't install any program with 
system requirements that exceed your 
PC's specifications. If your PC meets 
the listed system requirements but 
not the accompanying system recom- 
mendations, we advise foregoing the 
installation in that case, as well. 

Read the manual. Yes, we know 
that users manuals are sometimes 
lengthy. Yes, we know they often 
come in PDF (Portable Document 
Format) or HTML (Hypertext Mark- 
up Language) that you have to read 
on your computer display. And yes, 
we know they can be confusing. But 
read it anyway. You will reap the ben- 
efit of a faster installation as well as a 
better understanding of what your 
new software can do. 

Close all open programs. A lot hap- 
pens during the course of a software 

installation, including the creation of 
new files and changes to the Registry, 
a database that stores all of your 
system settings. You can improve the 
odds that everything goes smoothly 
by closing all open programs before- 
hand. This allows your computer to 
focus its undivided attention on the 
installation process. 

Some users get nervous about 
closing their security software just be- 
fore adding new code to the system. 
As long as your new program comes 
from a reputable developer — you 
shouldn't install it if it doesn't — you'll 
be fine. 

Installation Now 

Now that your system is prepped, 
you can proceed with the installation. 
Most programs employ one of several 
industry- standard installers (utilities 
that govern the installation of com- 
mercial applications). As a result, in- 
stallations have become a relatively 
routine process. Nevertheless, each 
program has installation idiosyn- 
crasies that you must respect. Always 
follow the instructions provided with 
your software to ensure a quick and 
effective installation. 

Insert setup media. Introduce the 
software to your PC by inserting the 
setup disc into the appropriate drive. 
In most cases, the Windows AutoPlay 
feature launches the installer automat- 
ically. If it does not — because the 
AutoPlay feature is disabled, for in- 
stance, or because you're installing 
from a floppy diskette — you can run 
the installer by opening the Start 
menu, selecting Run, clicking the 
Browse button, and perusing the setup 
media for the executable setup file. 
The file is usually labeled as Setup.exe 
or something similar. When you lo- 
cate the file, highlight it and click 
Open. In the Run dialog box, click OK 
to start the installation. 

Follow the instructions. After 
you've launched the installer, the rest 
of the installation process is a matter 
of following instructions. Read each 

screen carefully to ensure that you 
understand what is required and 
then do exactly what the instructions 
tell you to do. The specific instruc- 
tions will vary from one program to 
another, but you can expect to per- 
form several common tasks, including 
the following: 

• Choose the particular program 
you want to install. Always install 
the main title first. You can go 
back at a later time and install 



So far, we've described a typical 
software installation. However, 
not every installation is typical. For 
instance, a BIOS (Basic Input/ 
Output System) upgrade, which is 
referred to as "flashing the BIOS," 
can be more complicated. Most 
users will never flash the BIOS. In 
many cases, it simply isn't neces- 
sary. It's also risky, as errors that 
occur during a BIOS upgrade could 
take hours or days to fix. But a 
BIOS upgrade sometimes makes 
sense, such as when a user up- 
grades an older BIOS to take ad- 
vantage of a new operating system 
or storage technology. 

When upgrading the BIOS, it's 
extremely important that you 
follow the instructions. As men- 
tioned, a small mistake can have 
large consequences. Nevertheless, 
the general upgrade process is rel- 
atively straightforward. Simply 
boot to a DOS prompt using a 
bootable DOS diskette. When the 
DOS prompt appears on-screen, 
insert a second diskette con- 
taining the previously down- 
loaded BIOS upgrade and run the 
BIOS installation utility. It's critical 
that you type the installation 
command correctly. The utility 
will transfer the BIOS to the flash. 
When the process is complete, re- 
move the BIOS diskette and re- 
boot the system. The new BIOS 
should take effect immediately. I 

Smart Computing / October 2006 55 


How To Install & Uninstall 

any supplementary titles, such 
as Adobe Reader or Apple Quick- 
Time, which may have come bun- 
dled with your software. 

• Specify the installation option. Some 
installers give you the choice of se- 
lecting an installation option, such 
as Complete, Most Common, or 
Custom. We recommend choosing 
the default installation option. Once 
you've grown accustomed to the 
software, you can add or remove 
components as you find necessary. 

• Agree to the EULA (End User Li- 
cense Agreement). 

• Enter a valid product code, license 
key, or serial number. 

• Specify where on your system you 
want the program installed. 

• Specify whether you want program 
shortcuts installed and where to in- 
stall them. 

• Complete the online activation or 
registration form. 

If you have questions or need 
more information during the instal- 
lation, refer to the users manual or 
click the Help button that appears in 
the installer window. Most installers 

include some form of integrated 
assistance for your convenience. 

Reboot the PC. Most installers 
provide a Finish or Restart button 
to signal that the end is near. 
Click this button when prompted 
and, if it doesn't happen auto- 
matically, reboot the PC. Unless 
otherwise instructed, remove the 
setup media from the computer 
before the reboot. 

Off & Running 

Following the reboot, test your new 
program. Create a document, edit 
some sample images, or play a game — 
do whatever necessary to make sure the 
program works as expected. If you're 
satisfied with the performance, visit the 
software developer's Web site to obtain 
updates for your program. We advise 
actively using your computer for a 
couple of days before installing addi- 
tional software or hardware. This gives 
you the chance to catch and resolve 
problems caused by the new program. 

Following the aforementioned in- 
stallation regimen will not protect you 
from all installation woes. It's possible 

-' esse se e:t a setup type. 

| < Bac~ 


Unless you have a particular reason for doing 
otherwise, choose the default installation 
option (in this example, Complete is the 
default option) when given the choice. Doing 
so simplifies the installation and minimizes 
the chance that problems will arise. 

to do everything right and still end up 
with a PC that won't start, crashes un- 
expectedly, or exhibits some other kind 
of buggy behavior. Nevertheless, a 
proper installation decreases the likeli- 
hood that you'll run into trouble, and 
it helps you address the minor mishaps 
before they become major disasters. II 

by Jeff Dodd 

(Un)Lock & (Down)Load: 

Installing Software From The Web 

A growing number of soft- 
ware developers are dis- 
tributing their wares online, 
which is generally a good 
thing. Downloadable soft- 
ware is often cheaper than its 
boxed counterpart, and you 
can download it in less time 
than it takes to drive to the 
local computer store. The 
only drawback is that the 
process of getting the soft- 
ware can be a bit confusing. 
For starters, when do you 
pay for software that you 
download online? In some 
cases, you download the 
software and then buy it. In 
other cases, you buy the 
software and then download 

it. We recommend trying the 
software free before making 
the investment, if that's an 
option. Whichever method 
you choose, click the appro- 
priate option (typically la- 
beled as Buy Now, Try Now, 
Get Now, or something sim- 
ilar) and follow the on- 
screen instructions. Before 
submitting personal infor- 
mation over the Internet, 
check to see that the site ad- 
dress includes the https:// 
prefix, which indicates that 
the transaction is taking 
place on a secure port. If the 
address does not have an 
https:// prefix and you're 
being asked to enter credit 

card (or other personal) in- 
formation, stop the transac- 
tion immediately. 

Eventually, the download 
will commence. It may be 
smaller than you expected, 
and that's OK. Make certain 
to remember where you save 
the file. When the download 
is complete, shut down all 
open applications and follow 
the system preparation tips 
outlined in the Prep Work 
section of this article. (Keep 
in mind that at this point, 
you have not installed the 
program itself, you've merely 
downloaded an installer.) 
Next, locate and double- 
click the downloaded file. 

The installer will appear and 
begin extracting files to your 
system. Or it may launch an- 
other download, this time 
grabbing the rest of the 
files needed to complete 
the installation. For best re- 
sults, maintain an open 
Internet connection during 
the installation. 

Once the installation be- 
gins, follow the on-screen in- 
structions and reboot the 
PC. If you have not yet paid 
for the software, you must 
purchase a user license be- 
fore the trial ends. Consult 
the program's Help files for 
information about how to 
do so. I 

56 October 2006 / 


Eliminate Hardware Headaches 

With continuously falling prices and 
ever- expanding selections, regularly 
purchasing new hardware for PCs is 
now a feasible option for most users. But while 
it could be tempting to tear open the packaging 
of a new video card or hard drive and insert it 
in your PC without much regard for the proper 
process, specific steps should be taken to ensure 
that the device will work as intended. 

Thanks to the robust plug-and-play ability of 
Windows XP, installing hardware devices is cer- 
tainly easier than ever. The physical side of the 
installation process hasn't changed much, but 
the part that historically caused the most frustra- 
tion — getting Windows to recognize the hard- 
ware — is now rarely a concern. 

Many users are intimidated 
by the notion of installing hard- 
ware, primarily because they're 
not familiar with the basic 
architecture of their computers. 
However, that architecture is ac- 
tually quite easy to understand, 
and once you have a grasp of 
what's inside your computer's 
case, installing hardware be- 
comes much less daunting. 

All hardware devices connect 
in one way or another to the 
motherboard, a flat board inside 
the PC that contains numerous 
ports that support various de- 
vices. These ports include PCI 
(Peripheral Component Interconnect; for video 
cards, sound cards, network cards, and other 
expansion cards), AGP (Accelerated Graphics 
Port; for video cards), PCI Express (for many 

newer video cards), PS/2 (for mice and key- 
boards), parallel (for printers), USB and 
FireWire (for digital cameras, printers, external 
hard drives, MP3 players, and dozens of other 
devices), memory slots (for RAM modules), 
IDE (Integrated Drive Electronics; for hard 
drives) and SATA (Serial ATA; for hard drives). 

Although that's a seemingly dizzying array 
of ports and devices, it's not as confusing as it 
sounds, because each device type installs into 
only one port type. For example, if you open 
your computer case to install an AGP video 
card, there's only one place it can go. 
Granted, things can get slightly more compli- 
cated when you add multiples of a certain 

Adding expansion cards to your PC is as easy as finding 
the appropriate slot on the motherboard, such as the PCI 
(Peripheral Component Interconnect) and AGP 
(Accelerated Graphics Port) slots pictured here. 

Smart Computing / October 2006 57 


How To Install & Uninstall 

device, such as hard drives, but in 
most cases, if you do something 
wrong, you can simply start over or 
change the configuration — it's diffi- 
cult to actually break something by 
incorrectly installing a device. 

Down To Business 

The basic process for installing most 
hardware devices follows a fairly stan- 
dard path that requires you to turn off 
your computer, remove the computer 
door or cover, put on an antistatic 
wristband, install the device, replace 
the door or cover, turn on your com- 
puter, and either install the drivers 
included with the device or allow 
Windows to recognize the device and 
install its own drivers. (Drivers are 
small programs that allow Windows to 
communicate with the device.) 

Yet this protocol isn't always con- 
sistent for all hardware because cer- 
tain devices can be plugged directly 
into their required port, even while 
Windows is running, and Windows 
will install them automatically. Other 
devices need software installed in 
Windows before you physically con- 
nect them to your computer. Because 
it can be difficult to guess the exact 
installation procedure recommended 
by the manufacturer of any device, it's 
important to read the device manual 
or installation guide before at- 
tempting to install it. If you follow 
steps out of sequence, the device 
might not work as it should — or at 
all — and you might need to restart the 
installation process. 

Before installing new hardware, it's a 
good idea to back up your system, or at 
the very least, create a System Restore 
point. (In WinXP, click Start, All 
Programs, Accessories, System Tools, 
System Restore, and then select Create 
A Restore Point.) The backup or re- 
store point can return your system to 
its original settings if anything during 
the installation goes awry, although it 
won't fix any problems related to 
broken hardware, so be careful when 
inserting devices in your computer. 

If you need to open your computer 
case to install a device, always shut 
down and unplug your computer and 
any devices attached to it. Also, be 
sure to wear an antistatic wristband 
or ground yourself by frequently 
touching a metal object before touch- 
ing any devices inside (or outside) 
your case. To open your computer 
case, simply unscrew the thumb- 
screws or Phillips screws 
on the rear panel of the 
case and then remove the 
side door or the entire case 
cover, depending on the 
design of your case. 

Following are basic 
instructions for install- 
ing most common hard- 
ware devices. 

Expansion cards. If you 
are replacing a video card, 
sound card, network card, 
or any other expansion 
card, first remove the ex- 
isting card from inside the 
PC. Remove the screw that 
attaches the card's rear 
plate to the case and then 
carefully pull the card 
from the slot using your 
thumbs and forefingers 
to move the card direct- 
ly backward. Insert the 
new card by lining up 
the card's connector with 
the appropriate slot and 
slowly pushing the card 
into the slot. If the card 
doesn't slide into the slot, 
don't force it; remove the 
card and realign it before 
pushing again. When the 
card is firmly in the slot, 
use the screw to attach the 
card's rear plate to the 
case. If you're installing a 
video card that requires a 
secondary power supply, find the ap- 
propriate power cable (check the 
video card's manual) and insert the 
cable into the video card's power slot. 
Replace the case cover, plug in your 
PC, and turn it on. 

WinXP can recognize and install 
most expansion cards, so when the 
system starts, watch for the Found 
New Hardware icon in the System 
Tray and the bubble message that 
appears above it. In most cases, 
Windows will install the device using 
its own drivers, but if it's unable to 
find appropriate drivers, you'll need 
to insert the disc that's included with 

Depending on the design of your case, you might need 
to unlock the drive bay that holds your optical drives 
in place. This Antec case requires users to slide a lever 
to the right to unlock the bay. 

When removing cables from hard drives and optical drives, 
always grasp the plastic end connectors with your thumb 
and forefinger — never pull on the wires themselves. 

your card when prompted for the lo- 
cation of the drivers. 

USB and Fire Wire devices. The eas- 
iest devices to install are those that use 
USB or FireWire interfaces. This 
hardware is dubbed plug-and-play 

58 October 2006 / 


How To Install & Uninstall 

Optical drive 
installation is 
generally an easy 
process; you can 
simply slide the drive 
into an available 
drive bay and attach 
the cables. 

because the devices can be plugged 
directly into their respective ports 
without having to turn off your PC be- 
fore doing so. This is particularly con- 
venient for media- centric devices such 
as MP3 players, which some users con- 
nect and disconnect to their PCs on a 
daily basis. In general, you can install 
any USB or FireWire device by plug- 
ging the USB cord attached to the de- 
vice into any free USB or FireWire 
port. Windows will recognize most de- 
vices and display the Found New 
Hardware icon (and the accompany- 
ing bubble message) to indicate that 
the installation process is underway. 
Nevertheless, it's a good idea to check 
the device's installation instructions 
before plugging it into a port to find 
out if it's necessary to install any soft- 
ware beforehand. 

Memory. Aside from USB and Fire- 
Wire devices, memory modules are 
among the easiest of devices to install. 
Be aware that although most internal 
hardware devices can succumb to static 
electricity, memory modules are partic- 
ularly sensitive, so be sure to wear the 
aforementioned antistatic wristband 
before installing memory. Memory 
modules snap into slots on the mother- 
board specifically designed to hold 
them, so check your system or mother- 
board manual to find the location of 
the slots. The modules sometimes re- 
quire a little pressure to snap them into 
place, but take your time when pushing 
them — any resistance might be caused 
by misalignment, in which case simply 
remove the module and realign it in 
the slot before pushing down. 

Printers. Most modern printers 
connect to PCs using a USB port, 
so refer to the USB and FireWire 

section in this article if your printer 
uses USB. If it uses a parallel port, 
you'll need to turn off your PC and 
connect the printer cable to the par- 
allel port on the rear panel of the 
PC. The parallel port is a long, slim 
port with clasps on either end that 
hold the cable connector in place. 
Next, plug in the printer, turn it on, 
and turn on your PC. Like most 
other hardware, Windows should 
recognize the printer and install the 

appropriate drivers, but 
you might need to supply 
the drivers that shipped 
with the printer. 

Internal hard drives. 
The installation process for 
a new hard drive can vary, 
depending on whether 
you're adding a second 
hard drive or replacing 
your primary hard drive. If you're re- 
placing your primary hard drive, lo- 
cate the hard drive inside the case and 
carefully remove the ribbon and 
power cables from the back of the 
drive. To remove the cables, place 
your thumb and forefinger on the 
plastic connector and pull back- 
ward — never pull on the cable or 
wires. As you remove the cables, keep 
an eye on where they go because you'll 
need to use them again soon. 


The Right Way 

Although Windows 
XP generally ac- 
commodates the re- 
moval of hardware 
without much hassle, 
you can prevent poten- 
tial system configuration 
problems by following 
certain steps in Win- 
dows before physically 
uninstalling devices. 

Before you remove a 
device from your sys- 
tem, check the software 
you installed for the de- 
vice (if any) because 
some devices include 
uninstall programs that 
will remove the drivers 
from the system. For 
example, certain Canon 
printers place an unin- 
stall utility in the Start 
menu for each printer, 
so you can open the 
utility, confirm the re- 
moval, allow the pro- 
gram to run, and then 

turn off your comput- 
er and physically re- 
move the printer from 
your system. 

However, not all 
hardware includes unin- 
stall utilities, and for 
those devices, you can 
remove drivers using the 
Windows Device 
Manager. Right-click My 
Computer on the 
Desktop, click Proper- 
ties, and select the 
Hardware tab. Click 
Device Manager and lo- 
cate the device you 
want to uninstall. For 
example, to remove a 
video card, double-click 
Display Adapters, right- 
click the video card 
you're uninstalling, and 
click Uninstall. After the 
utility removes the 
drivers, you can turn off 
your PC and remove the 
video card. 

For some USB and 
most FireWire devices, 
use the Safely Remove 
Hardware utility in 
WinXP to stop any de- 
vices running on those 
ports before removing 
hardware. This will pre- 
vent any corruption 
caused by interruption 
of data transfer be- 
tween your PC and the 
device, so it's an impor- 
tant step to take. To use 
the utility, double-click 
the Safely Remove 
Hardware icon in the 
System Tray (it looks 
like a small green arrow 
above a gray box), se- 
lect your hardware de- 
vice, and click Stop. You 
may need to double- 
click a device listed 
under Hardware 
Devices to select one of 
multiple devices con- 
nected to a port. I 

Smart Computing / October 2006 59 


How To Install & Uninstall 

To remove the hard drive, you 
might need to remove the hard drive 
bay from the case. Many modern 
cases have levers that you can move to 
unlock the bay and slide it out. 
Remove all the screws holding the old 
hard drive to the bay, set the old drive 
and screws aside, and then insert the 
new hard drive into the bay and se- 
cure it with the existing screws. If 
the drive uses the ATA (Advanced 
Technology Attachment) interface (as 
opposed to SATA), check the rear 
panel of the hard drive for the jumper 
section, which is marked by a series of 
pins with a small, black plastic 
"jumper" covering two of the pins. 
The hard drive should include a small 
chart that indicates the jumper set- 
tings — if it doesn't, check the hard 
drive manual. Set the jumper to 
Master. Replace the bay in the com- 
puter case and secure it. 

Next, connect the ribbon cable to 
the hard drive. If the new hard drive 
uses the same interface as the old 
drive (either IDE or SATA), use the 
existing ribbon cable. However, if 
you're replacing an IDE drive with a 
SATA drive or vice versa, you'll need 
to remove the existing cable from the 
motherboard and use a cable with the 
appropriate interface. Connect the 
cable to the motherboard on one end 
and the hard drive on the other end. 
Finally, attach the power connector. 

If you're adding a second IDE hard 
drive, set the jumper setting to Slave 
and install the drive in an empty spot 
in the drive bay, preferably as far away 
as possible from the primary drive to 
prevent overheating. Locate the middle 
connector on the existing hard drive 
ribbon cable. (The first connector, at 
the end of the cable, should be at- 
tached to your primary drive — you'll 
see a middle connector a few inches 
away, and finally a third connector, 
which is attached to the motherboard.) 
If you don't see a middle connector, 
you'll need to replace the ribbon cable 
with a cable that has one. Connect the 
middle connector to the new hard 
drive and attach a power connector. 

To add a second SATA drive, install 
it in the drive bay and connect the 
drive to an open SATA port. Be sure 
that you have a spare SATA port be- 
fore purchasing a second SATA drive. 

After the drive is connected, replace 
the case cover, plug in and turn on your 
PC, and enter the BIOS (Basic Input/ 
Output System). (This is typically ac- 
complished by pressing DELETE, ESC, 
Fl, or another key during the initial 
boot sequence.) In the BIOS, confirm 

If Windows doesn't automatically 
recognize and install your device, you can 
use the Add Hardware Wizard to manually 
add new hardware. 

that the hard drive is recognized. If the 
BIOS sees your drive and lists it under 
the correct master or slave designation, 
the installation was successful. If your 
hard drive doesn't appear in the BIOS, 
you'll need to carefully repeat the instal- 
lation until the BIOS sees your drive. 

Optical drives. Installing a CD or 
DVD drive requires only a few steps. If 
you're replacing an old drive, you can 
simply turn off the PC, replace the old 
drive with the new drive, and attach 
the same ribbon cable and power con- 
nector. If you're installing a drive in a 
system that has no current drive, 
you'll need to secure the drive in your 
PC's optical drive bay, which is usually 
located above the hard drive bay. 

Most PCs require you to attach 
drive rails to the optical drive, which 
let you slide the drive into the bay and 
click it into place. (Your PC case 
should include drive rails, but if not, 
check the optical drive packaging for 
rails.) Before you attach the drive to 

the bay, make sure the drive will be 
flush with the front of the PC case. 
Using a compatible ribbon cable, con- 
nect the drive to the secondary 
ATA/IDE channel on the motherboard 
and attach a power connector to the 
drive. If you're adding a second optical 
drive, use the same ribbon cable at- 
tached to the first drive and attach the 
middle connector to the new drive. 

You'll need to configure the jumpers 
on the rear panel of the drive. Use the 
Master or Cable Select position if 
you're using one optical drive. If you're 
using two drives, set the first drive (at 
the end of the ribbon cable) to Master 
and set the second drive to Slave. 
Windows should recognize and install 
the drive, but you might need to supply 
drivers included with your drive. 

Manual Addition 

If you physically install a device but 
Windows is unable to recognize it, 
you can use the Add Hardware 
Wizard to help the operating system 
find the hardware. Click Start and 
Control Panel. If you are currently 
using Category View, click Switch To 
Classic View on the left menu. Next, 
double-click the Add Hardware entry 
and follow the instructions in the Add 
Hardware Wizard to manually add 
the new device to your system. 

Windows rarely has the most up- 
dated drivers for many hardware de- 
vices. It's a good idea to visit the device 
manufacturer's Web site to check for 
new drivers before installing the device, 
because outdated drivers can prevent 
your devices from working properly. 

If Windows can't find the correct 
drivers for your newly installed de- 
vice, you can easily point the installa- 
tion utility to the folder. Some drivers 
come packaged as executable files. In 
such an instance, you'll need to let 
Windows install its own drivers for 
your device, and then after the instal- 
lation, install the updated drivers by 
clicking the executable file. II 

by Christian Perry 

60 October 2006 / 

A Primer 


Say Goodbye To Stubborn Software 

Installing a Windows program is much like 
getting a new roommate. They move in 
and leave their junk all over the place. 
When they leave (or get uninstalled), a lot of 
that junk gets left behind, only to be discovered 
later in the oddest places. The big difference is 
that finding a smelly sock behind the dryer 
months after your roomie is gone is gross at 
worst, but some of the debris Windows pro- 
grams leave behind can cause serious prob- 
lems. When programs are uninstalled from 
your PC it is important to eradicate every trace 
of them, which isn't always easy. 

The worst thing you can do is to simply 
delete the folder where the program is in- 
stalled, because it really isn't installed there — at 
least not entirely. There are shortcuts, Registry 
entries, system files, and an assortment of 
other files associated with the program 
scattered all over the computer, and deleting 
the program folder leaves all of these behind 
to take up hard drive space and possibly 
slow down or destabilize the computer. 
Completely getting rid of software requires 
using specialized uninstallation utilities, most 
of which are already available on 
your computer. 

Built-in Uninstall 

The vast majority of Windows 
programs use an installation 
package such as InstallShield 
( to auto- 
mate the install process, placing 
files where they need to be with 
little to no input required from 

you. The best of these utilities are the ones that 
maintain a list of all of the locations where the 
files are stored, and they also come with an au- 
tomated uninstall utility that lets users remove 
the software from their computer with just a 
few clicks. The uninstall utility opens the list of 
file locations, deletes everything referenced on 
the list, and thereby removes every single file 
that was placed on the hard drive during the 
initial installation. 

Accessing this feature is easy, assuming the 
program comes with it. Click Start, expand 
Programs (or All Programs in Windows XP), 
and then expand the folder of the program you 
want to uninstall. Look for an entry that con- 
tains the word "uninstall" or "uninstaller," 
click it, and follow the prompts. 

Often the uninstaller asks if you want to keep 
certain files and folders, such as configuration 
settings, saved games, or the folder where the 
program was installed. If you plan to never use 
the software again, select the option that gets rid 
of these files. If, however, there is a chance you 
may install the program again at a later time, se- 
lect the option that retains these files and 

Always see if a 
program has its own 
uninstall utility, 
such as this 
uninstall method 
for Ad-Aware SE 
Personal, before 
using the Add Or 
Remove Programs 
tool found in the 
Control Panel. 


Select Uninstall Method 


■. ' ■ ■■ c ;;/-■ :- -..;::: : ■ ■.■.■■■. ;_•:■:■ ; ■. 

You can choose b. ..Hware or to choose e 
l : your system. 

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, . . . , 


(• Automatic 



N sxt 


Smart Computing / October 2006 61 


How To Install & Uninstall 

folders, so the next time you install the 
software you won't have to deal with 
the hassle of reconfiguring it. 

Windows To The Rescue 

Not all programs have their own 
uninstall utilities, and that's where 
WinXP's Add Or Remove Programs 
(or Add/Remove Programs in Win- 
dows 98/Me) utility comes into play. 
This utility is usually the only method 
you can use to remove most Mic- 
rosoft programs and updates that are 
installed on your system. The Add Or 
Remove Programs tool also taps into 
the individual uninstall utilities asso- 
ciated with programs on your com- 
puter, meaning it serves as a one-stop 
shop for uninstalling software. 

To access this feature, click Start, 
click Control Panel, and click Add Or 
Remove Programs. It may take a few 
minutes for Windows to scan the 
computer for installed software, but 
eventually a list appears containing all 
programs that came with an uninstall 
utility. Scroll down the list until you 
find the entry for the program you 
want to remove, highlight it, and then 
make sure that software is not cur- 
rently running before you click the 
Change/Remove button. Shutting 
down the software is extremely impor- 
tant because files can only be unin- 
stalled if they are not currently in use. 

Once you are certain the software is 
not in use, click Change/Remove and 
follow the prompts, which will vary 
from program to program. If an error 
message appears telling you the pro- 
gram cannot be uninstalled because 
files associated with it are currently in 
use, the program wasn't shut down 
properly. (Clicking the X in the 
upper-right corner of a window often 
will minimize a program back to the 
System Tray, but not completely shut 
down a program.) Check the System 
Tray located on the bottom- right side 
of the Windows toolbar. Make sure 
none of the icons there belong to the 
program you're attempting to unin- 
stall. If you see the program you are 




Set Program 
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Add Or Remove 
Programs in Windows 
XP tracks uninstall 
information for nearly 
every piece of 
software installed 
on the machine, 
including operating 
system patches 
from Microsoft. 

trying to uninstall, right- click its icon 
to turn off the software. If there is no 
option listed that will turn off the 
software, double-click the icon and 
wait for the program's interface 
window to appear. See if there is an 
option listed that will let you turn the 
program off. 

If none of these methods en- 
ables you to turn off the software 
in WinXP, hold down CTRL-ALT- 
DELETE on the keyboard to launch 
the Windows Task Manager. Locate 
the program in the Applications tab, 
highlight it, and click End Task. 
You may have to repeat this step sev- 
eral times to completely shut down 
the program. 

If you don't see the program in the 
list of applications, click the Processes 
tab. This list shows all of the programs 

currently running on your computer, 
including software running in the 
background that doesn't have its own 
window, System Tray icon, or other 
visual indicator that lets you know it's 
running. Click the Image Name cell to 
alphabetize the list and then scroll 
through it to find an entry associated 
with the program you're trying to 
uninstall. Highlight the entry and click 
End Process. Use a search service such 
as Google to look up any questionable 
entries and be sure to avoid entries 
that are necessary for the operating 
system to function properly, such 
as svchost.exe, System Idle Pro- 
cess, System, spoolsv.exe, smss.exe, 
services.exe, lsass.exe, dllhost.exe, 
rundll32.exe, and explorer.exe. Once 
the program or process is shut 
down, repeat the uninstall routine 



Windows Components 

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components is as 
easy as removing the 
check marks from 
a few checkboxes. 


Total disk space 
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62 October 2006 / 


How To Install & Uninstall 

System Restore is a handy 

feature when trouble 

strikes, but it can leave 

program remnants all over 

your computer. 

■■■■:■■.■■ :c-^ ;e-~- 

Svf-:er Res;::--e -saim? vol!!' computer 
(called a restore point) without causing 
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;e;;-c??-r ?s-*":- — - 

To begin, select the task that you wart to perform: 

I | Cancel 

immediately — don't reboot the com- 
puter; doing so may restart the pro- 
gram you just turned off. 

Remove Windows Software 

Most of the software that comes 
with Windows cannot be uninstalled 
from the Add Or Remove Programs 
list. In such an instance, you can click 
Add/Remove Windows Components 
on the left-hand side of the programs 
list. When the Windows Components 
Wizard appears, scroll down the list 
to find the Windows program you 
want to uninstall and remove the 
check mark from the corresponding 
checkbox to mark it for deletion. You 
can do this with as many programs as 
you like before clicking Next to com- 
plete the process. 

If you are unable to locate the 
entry, it may be contained within an- 
other entry. For example, if you want 
to uninstall Windows Calculator you 
need to select the Accessories And 
Utilities entry (don't remove the 
check mark yet), click the Details 
button, highlight the Accessories 
entry, click Details again, and then 
remove the check mark next to 
Calculator. If you make a mistake and 
accidentally uninstall something 
(which often happens when you acci- 
dentally remove the check mark from 
a container entry instead of from 
an individual program), start the 
Windows Components Wizard, place 
a check mark in the correct checkbox, 
and click Next. You may need your 

Windows installation CD to complete 
the reinstall process. 

Reinstall To Uninstall 

WinXP comes with a feature called 
System Restore that creates restore 
points of your current computer setup 
at various times (such as when you in- 
stall new software) and then lets you 
"roll back" the computer to a working 
restore point should something go 
wrong. This is an excellent feature 
when it works as intended. However, 

System Restore is often necessary after 
a program installation goes awry, and 
the process of rolling back can some- 
times create a mess. For example, after 
reverting to an earlier restore point, 
Windows is no longer aware that soft- 
ware installed after that restore point 
was created exists, even though all of 
the files and folders associated with 
that program remain on the hard 
drive. This creates a situation in which 
there is no uninstall option in the Add 
Or Remove Programs list, and any 
uninstall utility that came with the 
problematic software may not work. 
Add Or Remove Programs entries 
may also become unusable if short- 
cuts, uninstall data, or other impor- 
tant files are accidentally moved or 
deleted, leaving you with stubborn 
software that's hard to remove. 

While it's tempting to manually 
delete a program's installation folder 
in these situations, the best solution is 
to actually reinstall the software, re- 
boot the computer, and then uninstall 
the software using Add Or Remove 
Programs or the software's uninstall 


Security Software 

It's a sad trend, but an 
increasing number of 
programs purposely 
leave parts of them- 
selves behind when they 
are uninstalled. 
Sometimes they leave 
software that is accessed 
by other programs from 
the same company, 
which is tricky because 
deleting that software 
may cause the other 
programs to stop 
working. Other times 
they simply refuse to 
uninstall or only unin- 
stall partially, which can 
lead to errors and 
system instability. 

Security software— 
especially antivirus 

software— is especially 
prone to these problems 
because it is designed to 
get into places where 
other programs don't 
go, and it doesn't like to 
come out of hiding once 
it is there. Before re- 
moving any antivirus 
application or security 
suite check the manu- 
facturer's Web site for 
specific uninstallation 
instructions. For ex- 
ample, certain versions 
of Symantec's security 
suites ( 
.com) must be unin- 
stalled in a specific order 
to be fully removed, and 
in some cases, a special 
tool provided by 

Symantec must be used 
to complete the unin- 
stall process. 

Make absolutely cer- 
tain that the steps you 
are reading or the re- 
moval tool you are using 
are for the exact version 
of the software installed 
on your computer. 
Symantec's tool de- 
signed to remove its 
Norton Antivirus 2003 
products, for example, 
will only cause problems 
if you try to use it to 
uninstall a later version 
of Norton Antivirus. If 
an uninstall goes bad, try 
reinstalling the product 
and then repeating the 
removal steps. I 

Smart Computing / October 2006 63 


How To Install & Uninstall 



utility. Reinstalling restores all 
Registry entries and other 
data that was lost or forgotten 
by Windows during the roll- 
back or caused by moved or 
missing files, setting up the 
software for a clean uninstall 
procedure. The installation 
software may ask you if you 
wish to overwrite files or 
folders during this process, at 
which point you can click the 
Yes button to replace an indi- 
vidual file or the Yes To All button to 
let all files and folders be replaced 
with fresh copies. When you reinstall 
software in order to uninstall it, al- 
ways choose the Yes To All option. 
Once the software is installed, reboot 
the computer and then use the un- 
install utility that came with the 
software or use WinXP's Add Or 
Remove Programs utility to uninstall 
the application. 

Clean Up The Remnants 

Automated uninstall utilities aren't 
perfect, and often program folders are 
left behind when software is removed. 
Be on the lookout for an option 
during the uninstall routine that asks 
if you want to delete all files associ- 
ated with the program along with the 
program folder. Be sure to select this 
option if you know you'll no longer 
need those files. 

Scouring the hard drive for the 
remnants of uninstalled software is 
a job better left to an automated 
utility such as CCleaner (free; www If you download this 
utility, make sure to deselect the 
checkbox that will add a Yahoo! 
toolbar to your Web browser during 
the installation (unless you want that 
feature). Run the software and click 
the Issues button. Click Scan For 
Issues and after the scan completes, 
click Fix Selected Issues to get rid of 
software remnants. You can also click 
the Tools button and then click the 
Uninstall button to access WinXP's 
uninstall list and remove entries for 

HBE*i | 

Missing Shared DLLs 


Appfoatbn Paths 
Help Files 
Obsolete Software 
Run At Startup 
Start Menu Ordering 
0MUI Cache 
File Integrity 

Start Menu Shortcuts 
□ Dtsktop Shortcuts 

Unused File E» 

Unused File E> 

Unused File Ex 

L-. = a: F eB: 

L. = a: F a B: 

□ FeB 


l.-_e=: F eB: 

L-_e=: F eB: 

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Urused File B 

M On-sec File B 

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F e.RE" 






HKCR'F e."E- 


CCleaner is a 
powerful tool that 
can sweep out most 
of the debris left by 
uninstall procedures 
gone awry. 

software that has been uninstalled 
from the computer but still appears 
on the Add Or Remove Programs list. 
Also consider purchasing a third- 
party uninstall program, such 
as Total Uninstall ($29; www.martau 
.com), which jumps into action 
when a program is initially in- 
stalled, tracking every file that 
is copied to the computer so that 

it can remove everything in one step 
if you need to uninstall at a later 
time. Third-party uninstall pro- 
grams such as this won't help you 
with applications that are already in- 
stalled, but they can certainly reduce 
your need to rely on articles like this 
one in the future. II 

by Tracy Baker 



If you've recently pur- 
chased a new com- 
puter you've likely 
noticed the obscene 
number of icons marring 
the Desktop when the 
computer first boots. 
Most OEMs (original 
equipment manufac- 
turers) subsidize the 
cost of their machines 
by preloading a number 
of programs that range 
from semi-useful appli- 
cations to completely 
useless software that 
only runs in a crippled 
demonstration mode 
(unless you fork over 
enough cash to pay for 
the full version). Internet 
service providers such 
as AOL and EarthLink 
are the biggest offenders 
in this regard, but 
many computers also 
come with bloated 

multimedia applica- 
tions, demo versions of 
commercial software, 
and other stuff you 
don't need. 

Don't make the mis- 
take of simply deleting 
the Desktop shortcut 
and forgetting the soft- 
ware is even there. 
Instead, use Windows 
XP's Add Or Remove 
Programs (click Start, 
Control Panel, and Add 
Or Remove Programs 
[Add/ Remove Programs 
in Windows 98/Me]) or 
the software's uninstall 
utility to remove it com- 
pletely from the com- 
puter. If you can't find 
the entry in the Add Or 
Remove Programs list 
look for it within an 
entry that begins with 
the name of the com- 
puter's manufacturer, as 

bundled applications are 
often co-branded. 

When purchasing a 
computer try to find 
one that comes with a 
Windows operating 
system CD or DVD, as 
opposed to a system re- 
store disk, restore parti- 
tion, or other media 
designed to restore the 
computer to the state it 
was in when you first 
purchased it. Using the 
restore media will also 
reinstall all of that soft- 
ware you just spent 
time getting rid of 
should you ever need to 
reinstall the operating 
system from scratch, 
but a plain-vanilla 
Windows installation 
CD will leave you with 
a nice, clean hard drive 
and a much more 
stable computer. I 

64 October 2006 / 


May I Have The 
Definition, Please? 

Technology can be very easy to use and understand, but 
the language is not always so easy to decipher. Because 
computers and technology have 
become such a huge part of our 
everyday lives, the non-computer 
programmers among us need to be 
able to speak the same language. So, 
if you're not quite sure what a stub 
or a peripheral is, you can search's Dictionary/ 
Encyclopedia and find out. This on- 
line dictionary provides plain- 
English definitions to thousands of 
terms, abbreviations, and acronyms. 
This link also includes an encyclo- 
pedia that offers in-depth descrip- 
tions of terms you're likely to 
encounter when installing or unin- 
stalling software or hardware. 

1 Log on to 
and click the Computing Dictio- 
nary & Encyclopedia link on the 
blue menu and start expanding your vocabulary. 

2 Search the al- 

Smart Computing Dictionary/Encyclopedia - 
Browse Dictionary/Encyclopedia 

phabet for the 

term you're 

looking for, or 

use the Search 

box to find 

words that 

contain, begin 

with, or exactly match the term you're searching for. 

View terms stalling with... 

[][][][][ ][ ][ ][ ][ ][ ][ ][ ][ ][ ][ ][ ][ H ][ ][ ][ ][][][ ][ ][ ][ ][ ][ ] 
[][][][][][][ ][][][] 

Enter search inform : the Se.nch button. 

I I 

Contains O Begins With O Exact Mati 

"De Significatu Verborum" (on the meaning of words), 
one of the earliest dictionaries, was written in Latin 
during Augustus' reign. "Table Alphabetical! of 1604" was 
the first true English-language dictionary. Written by 
Robert Cawdrey, it contained only about 3,000 terms. By 
comparison, Noah Webster's version is quite recent, 
having first rolled out in 1806. 

The Smart Computing dictionary covers a wide array of 
terms (and we're always adding more). On the chance 
our offerings don't provide what you're looking for, how- 
ever, drop us a line ( and 
let us know. 

The first term in our dictionary, A Link, describes what is 
used in an SS7 (system signal 7) network to connect con- 
trol points and switching point to transfer points. Many 
thousands of words later, the last term is ZX Spectrum, a 
British computer 
(similar to the 
Commodore 60) 
Sinclair produced in 
the early '80s. 


Online Dictionary Terms 



To remove software from a computer. Applications can be uninstalled using their own uninstall utilities, if avail- 
able, or through the Add/Remove Programs function in Windows 9x/Me/NT/2000/XP. Separate standalone 
uninstall programs perform diagnostics on a hard drive to uncover which files are present, what their character- 
istics are, and which may be safely discarded. One of the difficulties of uninstalling Windows programs is the 
shared DLL (dynamic-link library) file. When software is installed, DLLs are placed in a common directory and 
are often used by more than one program. Removing a shared DLL can cause other programs to not function. 

The process of setting up a piece of hardware or software for operation. The installation of hardware involves 
connecting the new component to the rest of the computer, loading any accompanying software on the hard 
drive, and configuring the computer system so it will communicate with the new device. The installation of soft- 
ware involves loading the program on the hard drive and configuring the software for use with the system. 

Smart Computing / October 2006 65 

Quick Studies 

Word Processing 


2002 for 



O Basic S 
Search for: 

I Search | Restc 

(?) Search Tips,,, 
Other Searc h Options: 

Selected locations 


B-D Local Disk (C:) 
B-0 Adobe 
B-D Pn ' 

D Brushes 

□ Calibrat 

[+]■■■ D Di 


B-D F 

B-D Prefs 
B-D PshpGIFs 

; l 

§| Advanced Search 
£4 Find in this document,. 

Select the folders 

you want to 

search. The 

Plugins folder 

here has 

a stacked 


meaning that its 

subfolders have 

also been 


Microsoft Word 2002 

Locate Misplaced Documents 

It's easy to misplace a Microsoft Word 2002 
document despite efforts to file it in its proper 
folder. Instead of frantically opening folders, let 
Word's Search function do the work. 

Let's say you click File and Open to open a doc- 
ument, but you can't find what you're looking for. 
The Open dialog box, however, can connect you 
to the Search function. Click Tools on the right 
side of the box and select Search. 

You can also access Search functions through 
the Task Pane. There are three ways to get there. 
Click the Search button on the Standard Toolbar; 
click File and Search; or click View and Task Pane 
and select the arrow at the upper-right of the pane. 

Perform A Text Search 

The Search dialog box and the Search Pane are 
nearly identical in form and function. The dialog 
box and pane provide two ways of searching: 
Basic and Advanced. We look at the Basic search 
in this column. 

Basic searching works well for simple text 
searches. Enter the text in the Search Text box 
and define where you want to search by clicking 
the Search In box arrow. Make your search as 
broad or narrow as you like by selecting or dese- 
lecting boxes. The narrower the search, the more 
quickly it will finish. Double-click a parent folder 
to include all subfolders within it. Include all 
folders by checking the Everywhere box. Clear all 
folders by checking and deselecting the Every- 
where box. 

Word looks through files created in any Office 
XP application, Web pages, emails, appoint- 
ments, contacts, tasks, and notes in Microsoft 
Outlook. Narrow this list by clicking the Results 
Should Be box arrow. Word searches not only 
text within a document, but also within the 
Properties dialog box. 

Click Search. Results are displayed as they come 
in. There are minor display differences during and 
after the search, depending on whether you are 
using the Search dialog box or Task Pane. Both, 
however, have a Stop button. 

The Task Pane has a Modify button that takes 
you back to the area where you set up the search 
so you can start over. The Search dialog box al- 
ways has this area available, so it doesn't have 
the button. Only the dialog box has the Restore 

button, which lets you undo the last changes 
you made to the folder list you are going to use 
in the search. 

Files Found, Finally 

There are four operations you can choose to 
perform on a document via the Task Pane and 
two via the Search dialog box. 

Hover the pointer over one of the search result 
titles in the Task Pane and click the arrow that 
appears. The choices available are Edit With 
Microsoft Word, New From This File, Copy Link 
To Clipboard, and Properties. 

Edit With Microsoft Word opens the docu- 
ment in a new Word window. New From This 
Title creates a copy of the document. 

Copy Link To Clipboard creates a hyperlink that 
you can paste into another document by clicking 
Edit and Paste. This lets you create links between 
documents located on your computer. Properties 
brings up information about the document. 

The Search dialog box has only the Copy Link 
To Clipboard and Properties options. The di- 
alog box is reached when you click File and 
Open, so it assumes you want to open the docu- 
ment in Word. 

Spur basic searching with Fast Searching. Open 
the Search Pane and look in the middle to see 
whether it is turned on. Click Search Options 
to open the Indexing Service Settings dialog 
box. Select the Yes, Enable Indexing Service And 
Run When My Computer Is Idle radio button 
and OK. 

The Indexing Service extracts information 
from files and organizes it in a way that makes 
files quick and easy to find. The index is updated 
automatically when the computer is idle. 

The Indexing Service used by Word is the same 
as that invoked in Windows XP by clicking Start, 
Search, For Files And Folders, and Change Prefer- 
ences. If you enable the Indexing Service through 
Word, it is enabled in WinXP. 

Likewise, clicking Advanced in the Index 
Service Settings dialog box in Word is the same as 
clicking Change Indexing Service Settings in the 
WinXP. Either way, you open the Indexing 
Service dialog box. II 

by Tom Hancock 

66 October 2006 / 

Quick Studies 


Microsoft PowerPoint 2002 

Seven Common Presentation Pitfalls 


2002 for 



Putting text over 

a busy photo 

is a sure way to 

lose the photo's 

impact and 

make your text 


There are plenty of positive techniques to add 
to your slideshows, and we typically discuss 
those. But it's just as important to note the basic 
goofs that keep so many presentations from ef- 
fectively conveying a message. Cut these from 
your presentation game, and you're on your way 
to looking like a pro. 

1. Too Much Text 

PowerPoint slides are for presenting key 
thoughts, the top-level takeaways you want to drill 

home. If you're put- 
ting up slides loaded 
with 200 words of 
copy, you're probably 
losing people. They'll 
either be bored with 
the slides or trying so 
hard to read all the 
text that they don't 
hear a word you're 

A message is actu- 
ally more memorable if it's tight. Because nobody 
recalls more than a few central thoughts from 
most presentations, focus on those key points. If 
there's a lot of detailed data that validates your 
major ideas, put it in a handout the audience can 
review later. 

2. Words At Funky Angles 

Putting a little spin on a word can liven up the 
visuals, but remember that stylish tricks must al- 
ways submit to PowerPoint's cardinal rule: read- 
ability. Far too many presenters think it's a good 
idea to represent things such as The Three Pillars 
Of Success by spelling out each word vertically in a 
fancy font. The result is a nearly indecipherable 
string of characters. Again, your audience will be 
too distracted by your typography to absorb your 
presentation's content. 

3. Overly Complex Diagrams 

Here's an all-too-common head-slapper: A 
presenter displays a chart that makes the periodic 
table of elements look user-friendly. Then he 
says, "I know you won't be able to read this, but 

what it's saying is. . . ." Everyone's left wondering 
why you'd include a chart you knew was useless 
to the audience. Instead, distill the data into a 
chart that makes sense or just highlight the key 
findings in bullet points and include the detailed 
chart in a handout. 

4. Lack Of Practice 

Here's an idea: Instead of bothering with a run- 
through, you could just throw the slides together 
and start talking. That way, you can do cool things 
such as revealing too many bullet points and fum- 
bling with the keyboard until you back up the slides, 
hide the bullets, and then talk through each one. 
Mix in statements along the lines of, "Now, uh, 
well, that's not the right slide here. Let's skip ahead 
a few." On second thought, do the run-through. 

5. Text Over Images 

Displaying an inspirational saying in the blue sky 
of a pretty photo can be a nice addition to a presen- 
tation. Dropping text over a shot of a busy street 
scene doesn't work so well. Yet many presenters 
plop text onto photos without considering whether 
anyone can actually see, much less read, the words. 
Choose photos that are simple and clean. 

6. Reading Slides Word For Word 

If you're going to stand onstage and read every 
word of a slide, you might as well skip the presenta- 
tion and email the file to everyone to study on their 
own. Use slides to clarify and drive home your 
points, not as a giant TelePrompTer. 

7. Too Many Slides 

Lots of speakers fear running out of things to 
say, so they prepare a lot more slides than they 
need. But most speakers actually run long once 
they start expounding on their points, so they 
end up madly flipping through slides. Practice 
tells you how much material you'll cover; there's 
even a Rehearse Timings feature under the Slide 
Show menu. Cull your slides to the most perti- 
nent ones and give them the time they deserve. II 

by Trevor Meers 

Smart Computing / October 2006 67 

Quick Studies 

Office Suites 



Corel WordPerfect 1 1 

Paragraph Spacing & Indentation 


First line indent: f^Soi 

. :jt; ltd ' ' ■-. 



: oi 

(• Number of lines 1 


C Distance in points fo 

Clear All | 

Set the first line 

indent from the 

Paragraph Format 

dialog box. 

Use the Line 

Spacing dialog 

box to change 

from single to 

double spaced. 

Writers often use indentations to set special 
text apart from the rest of the document. 
For example, indents may be employed to separate 
a lengthy quote from the commentary surrounding 
it or to draw attention to a bulleted or numbered 
list. The three most common types of indents are 
single indent, double indent, and hanging indent. 

Indent Productions 

The single indent shifts every line within that 
paragraph to the next tab setting. WordPerfect's 
default tabs are set every half inch. To indent an 
entire paragraph, click at its start and then click the 
Format menu. Choose Paragraph and then Indent. 
The shortcut solution for single in- 
dent begins the same way (click at the 
paragraph beginning), but instead of 
heading off to the main toolbar, you 
simply press F7 or right- click to access 
the QuickMenu's Indent command. 
It's common to set off the first line 
of a paragraph with a single indent. Most of us 
simply press TAB without even thinking when we 
begin a new paragraph, but WordPerfect offers to 
relieve us of even that unconscious act. To set this 
command, return to the Format menu, choose 
Paragraph, and then select Format. When the 
Paragraph Format dialog box appears, enter the 
indent value in the First Line Indent box. This is 
done in increments of inches, so if you want to 
conform to WordPerfect defaults, choose half an 
inch (0.500). Click OK, and all paragraphs there- 
after will automatically indent to that value. 

The double indent brings in the paragraph one 
tab setting from both side margins. Again, the 
WordPerfect default is half an inch per side. The 
double indent is a good choice for particularly 
long or important text — it gives the indented text 
a crisper look and sets it apart better than the 
single indent. To indent a paragraph this way, 
first click at the beginning of the paragraph and 
then return to the Format menu. Choose 
Paragraph and then click Double Indent. 

A hanging indent moves all but the first line in 
by half an inch. Follow the same steps as with the 
double indent, but choose Hanging Indent in- 
stead of Double Indent. Another simpler option 
is to click any line but the first and then press 
TAB or right- click and choose Indent. 

If you decide to remove an indent, just click at 
the beginning of any line in that paragraph. Press 
SHIFT-TAB, and WordPerfect removes the indent. 

Outer & Inner Space 

First line indent is a common means of sepa- 
rating paragraphs, but there is another option — 
adding more space between paragraphs. If you set 
the spacing ahead of time, the distance between 
two paragraphs remains constant regardless of 
what line spacing changes you might make later. 

To create space between paragraphs beyond 
the norm, click at the beginning of the document. 
Next, click Format, choose Paragraph, and then 
select Format. In the Spacing Between Paragraphs 
section, there are two options: Number Of Lines 
and Distance In Points (there are 72 points in 
one inch). Choose your preferred option and 
enter a value in the corresponding box or use the 
arrows to locate the desired value. Click OK. 

Like most word processing programs, 
WordPerfect allows you to adjust the space be- 
tween lines. Academic papers often require 
double-spacing; for editing purposes, you may 
want even more space between lines. You also 
may want some text, such as block quotes, single- 
spaced while the rest remains double-spaced. 
Rather than monkey with the ENTER key (which 
almost always results in wacky formatting down 
the road), use the Line Spacing tool for a consis- 
tent presentation. 

To change the spacing between lines of text, click 
where you want to change the line spacing. If 
you're looking to change only a specific block, se- 
lect that text only. Click Format, choose Line, and 
then select Spacing. In the Line Spacing dialog box, 
adjust the value in the Spacing field (for example, 
choose 2.0 for double spacing). Click OK to apply. 

Visual Effects 

You'll probably need to try a few looks before 
you find one you're happy with. Even then, the 
indents and spacing may differ depending on the 
project. Whatever the end product, do your 
readers a service by making the best use of 
spacing and indentations. II 

by Anne Steyer Phelps 

68 October 2006 / 

Quick Studies 

Image Processing 


9 for Win98SE/ 

Me/NT 4.0/ 



Corel Paint Shop Pro 9 

Troubleshoot Installation Problems 


ur first Paint Shop Pro 9 troubleshooting 
column is devoted to installation difficulties. 


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Prevent most pop-up windows from appearing. 

[ OK 

Moving your 

Web browser's 

security setting 

to Low can help 

your Paint Shop 

Pro installation 

go more 


Flaws Related To CD Installation 

You know the routine: To install a new pro- 
gram, you usually need to insert the installation 
CD-ROM into the optical drive and follow the 
on-screen instructions. If this process doesn't go 
smoothly, it's possible that the drive is having dif- 
ficulty reading from the disc. 

Clean the disc. Use a soft cotton, lint-free cloth 
to wipe your disc from the inner hole outward to- 
ward the edge. 

If the problem persists, try to install 
the program from your hard drive. 
Insert the disc and click the Exit 
button when the Autorun window ap- 
pears. Right-click the Start button and 
click Explore. In the Folders pane on 
the left, click the CD-ROM icon. On 
the right side, in the Files Currently 
On The CD pane, right- click the Paint 
Shop Pro 9 folder and select Copy 
from the context menu. 

Now close the Explorer window, 
right-click the Desktop, and click 
Paste. Double-click the folder and 
double- click the Setup file to install the program. 

Difficulties With Bundled Trial Version 

Maybe you just want to try out Paint Shop Pro 
and noticed that you could do so by installing the 
trial version that was bundled with your new PC. 
The problem is that during installation, the pro- 
gram attempts to connect to the Internet, so your 
firewall and/or Internet privacy settings may inter- 
fere with the installation and refuse to let the instal- 
lation proceed. 

Cancel the installation and temporarily disable 
any firewall software you may be running or con- 
figure it to allow this program to connect. Also, set 
your Web browser's privacy options to a low or a 
medium setting. Now attempt the installation again. 

Conflicts With Video Cards 

Your PC's video card isn't related just to 
video — it also controls all sorts of display factors. 

If your video card's drivers aren't current, this can 
affect many aspects of Paint Shop Pro. 

Some of the symptoms of outdated video card 
drivers are: 

• Paint Shop Pro freezes during installation. 

• An error message displays at the end of 
the installation, stating "Driver Component 
Sizes Mismatch." 

• An error message appears on-screen carrying 
the number 1904 and notes that the program 
failed to register. 

Known conflicts that may cause these types of 
errors can occur when you try to install Paint Shop 
Pro onto a system that includes out-of-date Nvidia 
or ATI Radeon video cards. Your best option is to 
update your video card's drivers because these are 
the programs that help the card communicate with 
the rest of your system. Disable any antivirus 
apps before installing a driver. Also, uninstall the 
old driver. 

Error While Installing A Service Pack 

If you're trying to install service packs and receive 
the error message "Error 1605: This action is only 
valid for products that are currently installed," the 
likely cause is that the patch is already part of your 
software. Open the Help menu and select About 
Paint Shop Pro. Compare the version number just 
beneath the title to the version number on the 
patch, and if they're the same, you don't need to 
install the service pack. 

Bonus: A Reinstallation Tip 

If the Paint Shop Pro installation didn't go per- 
fectly, you'll want to uninstall and reinstall the pro- 
gram. Typically, the best way to uninstall a program 
is by using Add Or Remove Programs, but with 
Paint Shop Pro, there's an alternative option. Go 
to Corel's FTP site at 
/PaintShopPro/X to download and launch the 
Zapps.exe file. Under Actions, check all four op- 
tions and select Begin. 

Open My Computer to find and delete any pro- 
grams in your Paint Shop Pro folder, SOFTWARE 

by Heidi V.Anderson 

Smart Computing / October 2006 69 


Quick Studies 

Explorer 6.x 


Use Google Notebook To Remember Important Details 

If you festoon the rim of your monitor with 
sticky notes or find yourself looking up the same 
bits of information every day, Google Notebook 
might be for you. Notebook occupies a spot in 
your browser window that appears and disappears 
on command and gives you a place for important 
numbers, page links, text passages, or anything else 
you pick up while Web browsing. Plus, you can use 
Google Notebook to keep track of prices while you 
comparison shop, make notes for a research pro- 
ject, set up a quick list of sites, and more. 

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Google Notebook 

keeps bits of 

information handy 

in a tiny area that 

appears in the 


corner of your 

browser's window. 

Duly Noted 

The Google Note- 
book plug-in is avail- 
able for Firefox 1.5 and 
Internet Explorer 6.x. 
After you install it, 
you'll see an Open 
Notebook button in 
the lower-right corner 
of your browser's Sta- 
tus bar. To see the 
notebook, click the 
button; a small box will 
pop up in the same 
lower-right corner with a list of any existing notes. 

To type something new, click Add Note. By de- 
fault, Notebook will automatically add the link to 
the Web page currently on-screen to your note. If 
you don't want or need the link, deselect it by 
clicking the check mark at the bottom. To add to 
an existing note, click the small arrow to the left 
of the note's name and then click Edit. 

Much of the info you might want to include in 
your Notebook is probably straight from the Web 
pages you visit. If that's the case, there's no need 
to retype anything; instead, just select the text 
you want to save, right-click, and choose Note 
This (Google Notebook). This command displays 
the Notebook window and pastes the selected 
text there as a new note. Only the first line of the 
pasted text will display, unless you click the arrow 
next to the note. And, by default, Google Note- 
book automatically inserts a link to the page 
where you copied the text. 

You also can clip images from Web pages. 
Right-click a picture and choose Note This 
(Google Notebook), just as you would do with 

text. Technically, notebook only saves the Web 
address of the picture, so if the picture is moved 
or removed from the Web, you won't be able to 
see it in your Notebook any more. 

Then, to hide Notebook after you get what you 
need, simply click the close window button (X) in 
its upper- right corner. You also can take a peek at 
the commands under the Actions menu, which 
let you start new notebooks, see a list of your 
notebooks, add headings to group notes, or open 
your notebooks in a full-browser-page view. 

Super Size 

Google Notebook's tiny corner area makes it 
simple to collect scraps here and there, which is 
the main intent of Notebook, but if you take a lot 
of notes, it's not easy to organize that much text 
within such a tiny area. That's why there's another, 
bigger side to Notebook, and you can access it 
from any computer with an Internet connection. 
Select Go To Full Page View from the Actions 
menu of Notebook or just use your browser to 
visit and log in at 

The full Notebook area gives you an expansive 
view of your notes. When adding a note in the 
large view, a few basic formatting buttons — such 
as bold, italics, and font — also appear. This isn't a 
full-blown word processor by any stretch of the 
imagination, but it is a fairly well- equipped tool 
for jotting down brief notes. 

Anything you add to the larger version of your 
notebook(s) will show up in the tiny notebook(s) 
you view in the corner of your browser window 
later. Of course, long notes won't do you a lot of 
good in the smaller version, but the browser plug- 
in is only one aspect. If there are longer notes or 
documents you'd like available to you from any 
computer on the Internet, Notebook might be the 
way to go because you can always reach the full- 
sized version of your Notebook, even when you're 
using someone else's computer without the 
Notebook browser extension installed. 

However you view your Google Notebook, it's 
a handy spot to keep track of all the little things 
that come up while you wade through the 
Internet. You might even be able to put the sticky 
notes away. II 

by Alan Phelps 

70 October 2006 / 

Microsoft Excel 2002 

Quick Studies 



2002 for 



Using Comments 

Numbers don't always speak for themselves, so 
ExcePs designers built in a comment feature 
that lets you add textual notes to cells. These com- 
ments have a variety of potential uses. If you and 
your co-workers pass workbooks around for team 
input, comments present an easy way for someone 
to ask a question or point out a problem right in- 
side the file. Comments also are good for ex- 
plaining a piece of information, such as noting that 
this quarter's overspending in a budget category 
will balance out in the next quarter. 

And don't forget that comments are handy for 
leaving yourself notes, too. A well-placed com- 
ment can be a great way to remind your future 
self about how you arrived at a figure or that you 
need to hide certain cells before printing the file. 

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Use on-screen 


boxes to share 

information with 

others viewing 

your worksheets 

or remind 

yourself of key 

points about the 


Adding Comments 

To add a comment, 
click a cell and choose 
Insert and Comment. 
A text box appears 
beside the cell and lets 
you enter more text 
than you probably ever 
should. Excel automati- 
cally inserts your name 
at the beginning of the 
text box, but you can 
highlight it and delete it if you choose to. When 
you're finished, click outside the text box. 

You can edit the text in a comment box like 
you would any other text. Click inside the box 
and start typing to change the text. If a com- 
ment's good enough to bear repeating in another 
cell, right- click the original cell and choose Copy. 
Go to the destination cell, right-click and choose 
Paste Special and Comments. 

Formatting Comments 

To change a comment's look, highlight the 
text and choose a new font, size, or color. You 
also can move or resize the comment box by 
dragging the entire box or one of the sizing han- 
dles that appear when you click the box. This is 
handy for ensuring that a text box doesn't hide 
nearby cells that need to be visible when you're 
reading a comment. 

Many of the Formatting toolbar's options are 
available for formatting comment boxes. You can 
change the box's fill color or line style and add a 
3D effect if you really want the comment to jump 
out of the worksheet. Even the stodgy rectangular 
comment box itself is negotiable. Click the com- 
ment box, Draw, and Change AutoShape and 
then select a new shape from the menus. 

If you decide to get rid of a comment, right-click 
the cell and choose Delete Comment. Wipe out 
every comment in a worksheet with Edit, Go To, 
and Special. Click the button beside Comments and 
OK. Then choose Edit, Clear, and Comments. 

Viewing Comments 

There are many ways to access comments em- 
bedded in a worksheet. 

Display all comments at all times. Turn on this 
potentially cluttered-looking setting by choosing 
Tools, Options, and View. Click the button be- 
side Comment & Indicator. 

Display comments on demand. On the Options 
dialog box's View tab, click Comment Indicator 
Only. This produces a red triangle in the corner of 
any cell with a comment attached to it. Rest your 
mouse pointer on a cell to read its comment. 

Hide selected comments. Right-click a cell 
with a comment in it and choose Hide Comment. 
Note that the red triangle still appears, so don't 
count on this as a security feature that conceals a 
comment's existence. If you've hidden a lot of 
comments this way and want to view them all at 
once, choose View and Comments. 

Review comments one at a time. Choosing 
View and Comments reveals the Reviewing 
toolbar, which you can use to walk through all of 
a worksheet's comments one at a time. Just click 
the little arrow buttons to move forward and 
backward through the comments. 

Print comments. Choose File and Page Setup 
and then click the Sheet tab. Look for a Print sec- 
tion and a drop-down box labeled Comments. 
Choose At End of Sheet to print the comments in a 
group on their own sheet with labels that show 
which cell each comment refers to. The drop-down 
menu also lets you choose As Displayed On Sheet 
to print the comments in place by their cells. II 

by Trevor Meers 

Smart Computing / October 2006 71 

Quick Tips 

Secrets For Succeeding In Common Tasks 

by Stephen J. Bigelow 


Word 2003 

Outlook 2003 

I want to use a VoIP (Voice over 
Internet Protocol) adapter for my home tele- 
phone. Will I have a phone if the power goes out? 

Answer: When you lose power in your home, bat- 
tery power from the local telephone company 
maintains your telephone service. VoIP devices 
and other network devices (such as your broad- 
band router and cable modem) are powered from 
your home, so if you lose power, those devices all 
power down and disable your home network 
(along with the VoIP phone service). 

This can be a problem in case of an emergency. 
The best way to address this is to install a battery 
backup unit to power the VoIP adapter, broad- 
band router, and cable modem. Any type of bat- 
tery backup will work, though larger backups will 
provide power during longer outages. Remember 
that external VoIP adapters, such as the Linksys 
PAP2 ($58 to $72;, use your 
regular telephone, so you do not need to keep 
your PC powered on to make VoIP calls. Other 
services, such as Skype, do work through the PC 
or laptop. 

i: When editing documents, is there any 
way to prevent Word from selecting entire words 
when I click and drag the cursor around? 

Answer: By default, Microsoft Word 2003 will au- 
tomatically select entire words when you start 
clicking and dragging the cursor over words in a 
sentence or paragraph. If you want to stop your 

cursor from highlighting entire words, click 
Tools, Options, and select the Edit tab. Uncheck 
the When Selecting, Automatically Select Entire 
Word checkbox and then click OK. Now, when 
you click and drag the cursor to highlight text, 
Word will only select the letters that you cover 
with your cursor. 

x I'm so used to broadband that I keep 
forgetting to hang up the line when I check my 
email through dial up while on the road. Is there 
a way to make Outlook hang up automatically? 

Answer: Outlook 2003 offers great control over 
dial-up behavior. With Outlook running, click 

Tools, Options, and select Mail Setup. In the 
Dial-up area, select the Hang Up When Finished 
With A Manual Send/Receive checkbox and 
click Apply and OK. Now when you dial in to 
check your email, Outlook should hang up the 
line automatically. 

Spelling & Grammar 

Track Changes 
User Information Compatibility File Locations 




Editing options 

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□ Use the IN5 key for paste 
Overtype mode 

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agraph style; 

Configure Outlook to 

automatically release 

the telephone line after 

checking email with a 

dial-up connection. 

You can prevent 
Microsoft Word from 
selecting entire words 
when you highlight 
text with your cursor. 

Preferences Mail a t Spelling Security Other 

Send/Receive - 

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General Tools Hardware Sharing Quota 

^0 | | 

Type: Local Disk 
File system: NTFS 

■ Used space: 51 ,1 98,676,992 bytes 

■ Free space: 1 48,840,099,840 bytes 

47.6 GB 
138 GB 

Capacity: 200 .038. 776,832 bytes 

186 GB 

Drive G 

Disk Cleanup | 

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........ : . . . • . • ... 

file searching 

OK Cancel 


Windows XP provides a 
detailed utilization report 
for each drive in your PC 

72 October 2006 / 

Quick Tips 


Disk Defrag 


Disk Cleanup 

Is there a bulletproof way to add a hard 
drive to my PC without the risk of opening the 
system and tinkering with a new internal drive? 

Answer: The easiest way to add storage capacity 
to your PC is to connect an external USB hard 
drive to one of your available USB 2.0 ports. 
Western Digital and Seagate both produce fami- 
lies of external hard drives with capacities ex- 
ceeding 250GB. Power up the drive, connect it to 
your PC, prepare the drive for service as the 
manufacturer suggests, and you're all set. 

External hard drives may not be fast enough for 
games and other programs that rely on fast drive 
data transfers, so it may not work well if you try 
to install and run them from an external drive. 
Run those programs from your PC's main drive 
and then store your data files on the new external 
unit. If you opt for an external hard drive and 
your PC is connected to a battery backup unit, 
you might want to attach it to the same battery 
backup unit that your PC uses. This way, if you 
lose power, you can save your data to the USB 
drive before powering down. 

Is there an easy way to tell how much 
space is left on my hard drive? Will disk defrag- 
mentation give me more space? 

Answer: Windows provides a pie chart to represent 
the utilization of each storage device. Click Start, 
My Computer, right- click a drive, and then click 
Properties. Used Space is shown in blue, and Free 
Space is shown in cyan. Disk defragmentation is 
for performance, not storage. Defragmenting a 
hard drive reorganizes the files so that all of their 

clusters are located together on the disk. This re- 
duces the amount of work that the drive has to do 
when reading or writing that file, which makes the 
drive seem a little faster. To defrag a drive in 
Windows XP click Start, Control Panel (running in 
Category View), Performance And Maintenance, 
and Rearrange Items On Your Hard Disk To Make 
Programs Run Faster. This will launch the Disk 
Defragmenter utility. A small amount of disk frag- 
mentation is normal, so there is often no need to 
defrag a drive with less than 20% fragmentation. 

How do I know if my PC needs a 
firmware update? Is it hard to perform one? 

Answer: If your PC is running well and you're not 
experiencing any performance or stability prob- 
lems, you probably don't need a firmware update. 
You can check for firmware updates by visiting 
the technical support or download pages of your 
PC manufacturer's Web site where there is usu- 
ally a list of changes or fixes that the update 
should address. If you are experiencing a problem 

listed, new firmware may be an appropriate solu- 
tion. If not, do not attempt a firmware update. 

Firmware updates are not difficult. In fact, the 
process is usually automatic. But it's critical to 
obtain the firmware for your PC make and model 
and execute the update without rebooting or 
losing power. Using the wrong firmware or inter- 
rupting the update process can render your PC 
unbootable. Read the update instructions in ad- 
vance and follow the manufacturer's instructions. 

How can I free space on the drive? 

Answer: The easiest way to clear space is to remove 
old or unused applications which can demand 
hundreds of megabytes (even gigabytes). Click 
Start, Control Panel, and Add Or Remove Pro- 
grams. Once the program list populates, highlight 
any unwanted program, and click the Remove 
button to uninstall the program. Be sure to back 
up any important data that you may have created 
with the program before uninstalling. 

The Disk Cleanup wizard can remove old cached 
or temporary files and other unneeded media. In 
WinXP, click Start, Control Panel (running in 
Category View), Performance And Maintenance, 
and Free Up Space On Your Hard Disk. The 
Disk Cleanup wizard analyzes your hard disk 
and presents a list of areas that contain files that 
can usually be deleted, such as Temporary 
Internet Files and the Recycle Bin. Select each 
area that you want to clean up and click OK to 
free the space. 

Smart Computing / October 2006 73 

Compiled by Jennifer Farwell 
Graphics & Design by Lindsay Anker 

Windows XP Media 
Center Edition 2005 

Couch Potato Treat Or Overdone TV Dinner? 

When Microsoft launched Windows 
XP Media Center Edition in Oc- 
tober 2002, Bill Gates proclaimed a 
new era in home computing and entertainment. 
WMCE machines came preinstalled with a spe- 
cial version of Windows that included a multi- 
media-optimized application (Media Center). 
With Media Center, users could access, and play 
in their living rooms, digital media stored 
on their PCs. 

Fast-forward four years, and 
WMCE commands only a frac- 
tion of the overall PC market. Never- 
theless, it picked up speed with the release of 
WMCE 2005 (a 40% sales increase over the previous year, according to 
Microsoft). Furthermore, OEM (original equipment manufacturer) ver- 
sions of the WMCE appeared on the market this year, so you can install it 
in the PC of your choice. (Microsoft's original design was for WMCE to be 
available only on purpose-built boxes.) 

Does WMCE live up to Redmond's marketing hype? While WMCE is 
not a computing and multimedia panacea, it does have some nifty fea- 
tures. Unfortunately, it also has a few limitations that make it inappro- 
priate for some users. Our pictorial guide will show you what to expect 
from this digital media mogul. 

The WMCE main menu (below) features oversized, clickable 
links to the My Videos, My Pictures, My TV, My Music folders 
and options, plus other program selections 

WMCE PCs are equipped with the minimum 
hardware required to run the OS. They also include 
a Media Center remote control, from which you 
can open the Media Center (by pressing the green 
button) and run most functions. Depending on the 
configuration, WMCE PCs may also include a wireless 
keyboard and optional hardware upgrades (such as 
a huge hard drive or multiple TV tuners). 

You can create CDs or DVDs of noncopyright-protected 
material directly from WMCE using your remote control. 

74 October 2006 / 

Pros: Tasty Treats 

1. The Media Center displays in a large, bright font, 
comfortable for viewing from 10 feet away. An optional, 
WMCE- optimized wireless keyboard also lets you run PC 
tasks from your couch, and you can even watch TV in a 
resizable window while you perform other PC tasks. 

2. WMCE 2005 is a Windows XP Pro machine with a mul- 
timedia add-on, so it incorporates security features not pre- 
sent in WinXP Home. You can use WMCE as a regular PC. 

The WMCE main menu (above) features oversized, clickable links to the My Videos, 
My Pictures, My TV, My Music folders and options, plus other program selections 

3. WMCE supports HDTV (high-def) if you have it on 
your TV (and your PC has one or more high-def tun- 
er cards). 

4. Most WMCE machines (appropriate hardware re- 
quired) let you record and control multiple TV programs 
simultaneously and let you burn DVDs and CDs with a few 
clicks on the remote. 

5. Windows Messenger is built into WMCE 2005, so you 

can send messages to friends and family 

("My favorite episode of 'Seinfeld' is on ") 

without leaving the couch. 

6. WMCE isn't any more of a resource hog 
than its parent, WinXP Pro. It shouldn't af- 
fect performance when you are in PC mode, 
even if you are recording programs in the 
background, provided your PC has sufficient 
power (see No. 1 in Cons: Burnt Spuds). 

7. WMCE 2005 supports Media Center 
Extenders, devices that can play WMCE 
content broadcast over wired or wire- 
less connections. 

8. Thanks to a new, mobile edition of 
Windows Media Player 10.0, you can sync 
multimedia content between WMCE and an 
array of handheld devices. 

Cons: Burnt Spuds 

1. WMCE 2005 has heftier system requirements than 
WinXP: a 1.6GHz processor, a hardware-accelerated 
graphics processor, and 256MB of memory (we recom- 
mend at least a 2.4GHz processor and 512MB of mem- 
ory). Plus, you'll need one or more WMCE-compatible TV 
tuner cards and other fancy add-ons to use all WMCE's 
features (included with most preloaded PCs). Of course, 
you'd need this stuff to make a digital media center out of 
any PC, but with WMCE, many requirements are not 
an option. 

2. Microsoft disabled the ability to join an active domain 
(a client server network) in WMCE, presumably to limit 
digital media piracy. That means you won't be able to log 
on to your corporate server from your WMCE PC. 

3. Users report occasional odd quirks in WMCE, partic- 
ularly videos, programs, and Web sites that won't load 
through Media Center yet are fine in PC mode. 

4. The off-the-shelf OEM version of WMCE does not 
ship with the MPEG-2 codec (the most common compres- 
sion and digital conversion technology for DVD and TV 
recordings). WMCE manufacturers usually install one, but 
if you are installing WMCE directly, you'll need third-party 
decoder software. 

5. Setting up WMCE as a multimedia center still requires 
lots of configuration and connection. Even though WMCE 
makes it easier than doing so with third-party software 
(which is also possible), it can be a bit complicated. 



Play Slide Show 
Sort by Name 

Create CD/DVD 


With the My Pictures folder open, you can download, view, touch 
up, print, burn to CD, or create slideshows from your digital 
images — all with a few clicks of the remote control. 

Smart Computing / October 2006 75 

This Month In 
Tech Support 

Straighten Out 

Contributing Writers 

Rachel Derowitsch 

Gregory Anderson 


Next Month 

Promote Harmony 
Among Security Apps 

What To Do When .. . 

Your Browser's 
Been Hijacked 

It's no secret that the Web is loaded with ob- 
scene pages. When the Internet Explorer 
Web browser is working normally, it should 
be easy to avoid seeing anything unseemly. 

But if a malicious program, or malware, called a 
browser hijacker successfully attacks your system, 
you may not be able to avoid seeing pornographic 
pop-up ads or Web pages, even though you've 
done nothing to access those images. 

It's possible to rid your system of a hijacker, 
or, better yet, to avoid getting hijacked alto- 
gether. But first you need to know what these 
sneaky programs do. 

What To Look For 

Browser hijackers affect PCs in different ways. 
Some of the worst-case scenarios involve the 
malware CWS (CoolWebSearch), which can re- 
sult in pornographic pop-up ads and redirects 
to Web sites of the same nature. Other hijackers 
may redirect you to "clean" sites just to increase 
the traffic for the sake of advertisers. 

If you experience any of the following while 
using IE, a browser hijacker is likely the culprit: 

Your default home page and/or search engine 
page has been changed. It's possible that an- 
other user has made this change. However, if 
you use IE's Internet Options, found via the 
Tools menu, to switch your preferences back, 
and the home page changes again the next 
time you turn on your computer, the culprit 
is likely a hijacker, not another user. 
You receive an unusually high number of 
pop-ups, or you get pop-ups from porn sites. 
And when you try to close a pop -up ad, sev- 
eral more automatically open. 
Bookmarks to porn sites and other Web pages 
you don't visit appear in IE's Favorites menu. 
You are redirected to sites you are not trying to 
visit or see pop-ups, often obscene ones, when 
you accidentally enter the wrong URL in IE's 
Address window. This happens because the hi- 
jacker makes changes in your system's Hosts 
file, which acts like an IP (Internet Protocol) 
address book for URLs. If the Hosts file doesn't 
contain the IP address you're trying to reach — 
and it usually doesn't because most users don't 
ever add anything to the Hosts file — it requests 
it from a DNS (Domain Name System or 
Server). The good news is that you can edit 


File Edit Format View Help 

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# This file conta names. Each 

# entry s! , ept on an individual line. The IP address should 

# be placed in the first column followed by the corresponding host 

# The IP address and the host name she by at least one 

# space. 

# Addition 2d on individual 

# lines or follow a '#' symbol. 

# For example: 


You can block contact with an offending Web site by 
linking the URL to your computer's IP (Internet Protocol) 
address ( in your system's Hosts file. 

76 October 2006 / 


Browser Hijacking 

or replace your Hosts file to pre- 
vent hijackers from affecting your 
browser in this way, as we'll explain 
in a moment. 

• The hijacker may enable Web sites 
to run ActiveX scripts on your 
system without your permission, 
even if the scripts come from a site 
you've put in IE's Restricted Zone. 

• You may not be able to access legit- 
imate Web sites you want to visit. 

• The hijacker may make changes to 
your system's Registry that don't 
take effect until the next time you 
start your computer. 

If any of the above sounds familiar, 
try one of the following methods for 
giving the hijacker the boot. 

Possible Solutions 

Here are some ways to clean up 
after a hijacker hits: 

• Add the Web site you'd like to 
block to your current Hosts file. 
Use the Search tool to find your 
Hosts file and then open it with 
Notepad. Add this line: 
"name of Web site." The IP address refers to your computer, 
the local host. By adding this entry 
to your Hosts file, your computer 
won't open anything from the of- 
fending site because it thinks it al- 
ready found the IP address and 
thus won't seek it from a DNS. 

• Download and install a replacement 
Hosts file for your system from ( 
help2002/hosts.htm). This file in- 
cludes many additions 
that will block known hijackers. 

• Remove the hijacker. A number of 
programs will do the trick, including 
Spybot S&D (free; www.safer-net, SpySweeper ($29.95;, Ad- Aware 
(price depends upon version pur- 
chased;, and 
Hijack This (free; 

A browser hijacker may do minimal 
damage by changing your IE settings. 

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Cancel Apply 

Practice safe Web browsing 
by placing unfamiliar Web sites in 
IE's Restricted Sites zone before 
you visit them. 

(Of course, that can lead to far worse 
problems.) You can open these set- 
tings through the Tools menu to 
change them back to your preferences, 
but you may find that, after restarting 
your system, the IE settings have re- 
verted to what the hijacker changed 
them to. Or worse, you may see that 
the Internet Options command on the 
Tools menu is not available, and the 
Internet Options icon doesn't appear 
in the Control Panel either. 

To correct this situation, you'll 
need to do a little editing to the 
Registry. (When editing your Registry, 
use caution and back up your system 
beforehand.) In Windows XP, click 
Start and Run and type regedit in 
the Open field. Find HKEY_CUR- 
RENT_USER\Control Panel\don't 
load. If "inetcple.cpl" is listed under 
this entry, delete it, close the Registry, 
and restart your system. 

Take Preventive Measures 

Once you rid your system of a hi- 
jacker, take the following precautions 
to prevent another takeover. Or if 
you're lucky enough not to have been 
hijacked, adopt these practices. 

First, place unfamiliar Web sites in 
the Restricted Sites zone before you 
visit them. Click Tools, Internet 
Options, and the Security tab. Click 

Restricted Sites and then the Sites 
button to add the URLs of sites you 
want to visit but aren't entirely sure 
you can trust. In addition, set the 
Default Level for the Internet zone to 
Medium or High. 

Second, use Microsoft Windows 
Update ( or the 
newer Microsoft Update (accessed 
from the same Web site) so that your 
version of IE receives any security 
patches it needs. You can set your 
system to receive high-priority updates 
automatically (recommended), or you 
can manually download and install 
patches as they are posted on the site. 

Third, install, run, and keep up- 
dated a comprehensive antivirus pro- 
gram, such as Norton Internet Security 
2006 ($69.99; 
or McAfee Internet Security Suite 
($69.99; These 
programs contain adware- and spy- 
ware-fighting tools. At their highest or 
most secure settings, these programs 
do a terrific job of keeping your system 
free of junk. Plus, when you renew 
your annual subscription to an AV 
program, you'll keep the program cur- 
rent to ward off new hijackers. 

A Last Resort 

The problem with being the leader 
of the pack, whether it's the No. 1 
movie at the box office or a world 
record holder, is that you carry the 
biggest bull's-eye on your back. IE 
suffers from this problem; as the top 
Web browser, it becomes a frequent 
target of those trying to find vulnera- 
bilities to exploit. 

A last resort to combating hijacking 
programs is to switch to another 
browser, such as Firefox ( or Opera (www. opera 
.com). We think the other suggestions 
we've provided will work, as well, but 
making this radical switch may pro- 
vide you the safest — and cheapest — 
way to browse the Web. II 

by Rachel Derowitsch 

Smart Computing / October 2006 77 


Watch Your Back 

Avoid BackWeb Problems 

Sometimes it's hard to strike the 
right balance between intru- 
sion and utility. We all loathe 
hidden pop-up engines and spyware 
that report on users' computing 
habits. On the other hand, most of us 
would agree that's rec- 
ommendation engine and Norton's 
LiveUpdate are useful and benign ex- 
amples of personalization. But not all 
related programs fit nicely into either 
camp. Take BackWeb, a common au- 
tomatic updating tool, as one ex- 
ample. We'll help you understand a 
little about how BackWeb works, 
how to tell if it's running on your 
system, and how you can avoid 
common problems that arise from 
conflicts related to BackWeb and se- 
curity software. 

About BackWeb 

Companies license BackWeb and 
integrate the application into their 
own software, enabling automatic up- 
dating and reporting. Like many 
other technologies (peer-to-peer file 
sharing and cookies, for example), 
BackWeb's status as a force for good 
or for ill depends on how it's used. 
BackWeb has plenty of perfectly legit- 
imate potential uses, including secu- 
rity patch downloads, virus definition 
updates, and new driver distribution. 
However, it also has less useful (and 
even annoying or dangerous) capabil- 
ities, such as pulling down a constant 
stream of new advertisements or 
"special offers," reporting on your 
system's configuration, or even 
tracking your activity. Compounding 
the problem is the fact that some 
manufacturers bundle BackWeb with 
their software but don't tell you what 
you're installing or how they use it. 

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Many programs use BackWeb to 
automate updates and downloads. It 
may be helpful to simply turn off 
updating features and keep the rest 
of the package. 

BackWeb can appear on your sys- 
tem under its own name, or it can 
integrate seamlessly with a vendor's 
software. For example, HP and Com- 
paq PCs use BackWeb to provide up- 
dates, notices, user tips, and special 
offers tailored to your system. But 
the program isn't called BackWeb; it's 
part of the Updates From HP or 
Compaq Connections programs. In 
other words, you may never even 
know that your system is running 
BackWeb unless you have a problem. 

Identify Potential Problems 

BackWeb problems can arise in a 
variety of ways. Some security suites 
and antispyware identify the applica- 
tion as a security risk and subsequently 
attempt to remove the program. If the 
program removes BackWeb incor- 
rectly or incompletely, you may receive 
error messages when it tries to run. 
And because BackWeb integrates with 
other software, these programs tend to 
remove only BackWeb files without 
modifying the software that relies on 
those files. So even when they success- 
fully disable or remove BackWeb itself, 
the updates that use the program may 
begin having trouble. For example, HP 
or Compaq users may receive an 
Invalid Back Web Application Id error 
when antispyware programs incor- 
rectly remove only a portion of the up- 
dating package. 

BackWeb itself can become cor- 
rupted or begin to run poorly on its 
own, though you're most likely to dis- 
cover BackWeb issues through the 
updates that use the application. 
Failed automatic updates (without 
obvious connectivity or other pro- 
gram causes), errors in device man- 
agement software that download 
information from the Web, and 
seemingly random promotional ac- 
tivity after installing new software can 

The BackWeb Boys 

W\ lenty of companies find value in BackWeb's possibilities. Here are son 
1 popular personal computing products, along with how they use Back 

;Web. 1 

Company Product 


Logitech Mice 

Software updates 
and special offers 

HP/Compaq PCs 

Updates, support, 
tips, and offers 

F-Secure Antivirus 

Virus definition 

Kodak Digital cameras 

Software updates 

Western Hard drive 
Digital "Data Lifeline" 

Upgrades or critical 
information (discontinued) 

78 October 2006 / 



all indicate issues with BackWeb (or a 
similar program). 

And BackWeb can actually be used 
as spyware. Even when you aren't 
having obvious trouble, you may be 
subject to all the regular spyware risks 
(including misappropriated system 
resources and vulnerability of per- 
sonal information) if manufacturers 
use BackWeb for dubious purposes. 
In that case, you may need an anti- 
spyware program to identify and dis- 
able it. If you run a scan and your 
program identifies BackWeb, your 
best bet is probably to disable the ap- 
plication (unless you know a legiti- 
mate program needs it). If you begin 
getting errors from legit software, you 
can always re-enable (or reinstall) the 
software and tell your security soft- 
ware to leave it alone. Being aware of 
these risks and practicing general cau- 
tion can help limit your exposure. 

Any service that runs continually in 
the background and runs itself (de- 
ciding on its own how and when it will 
claim resources and for what purposes) 
can create system instability and act as 
a resource drain. So BackWeb can 
cause problems even when it's working 
flawlessly, free from interference, and 
for legitimate purposes. If your system 
seems sluggish or you experience fre- 
quent instability without other obvious 
causes, BackWeb or one of its host pro- 
grams may be the culprit. 

Staying Out Of Trouble 

If you do run into BackWeb error 
messages, you have several options. 
First, you can simply perform a 
System Restore and roll your machine 
back to a point before the errors 
started. A better option is to uninstall 
and reinstall the software that uses 
BackWeb and then exempt BackWeb 
and the entire package from your spy- 
ware/security scanning tools to avoid 
breaking them in the future. 

Even if you're not having obvious is- 
sues, it won't hurt to run a quick check 
to see if something on your system is 
running BackWeb. That way you can 

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Windows' Search tool can help turn up instances of BackWeb on your hard drive. 

figure out who's using it and what 
they're doing with it. Start by checking 
out the services running in Task 
Manager (pull it up with CTRL- ALT- 
DELETE). Next, check which programs 
launch at bootup by typing msconfig 
in the Start menu's Run prompt 
(in Windows XP, go to Start and Run) 
and reviewing the list of applications 
under the Startup tab. Look under Add 
Or Remove Programs in the Windows 
Control Panel for anything with 
BackWeb in the title. Next, look in 
C:\PROGRAM FILES for a BackWeb 
folder. Then do a Search on your C:\ 
drive for Backweb.exe or Backweb.dll. 
If you find BackWeb and don't have 
any of the products on our list, do a 
little more searching on your system 
and research the Web to figure out 
what other application, or applications, 
might use the tool. Once you identify 
the sponsor, make a decision about 
whether you want to let them continue 
using BackWeb on your computer. 

If you trust the manufacturer or 
haven't had any suspicious problems, 
you don't necessarily need to make any 
changes. But knowing where potential 

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Check Msconfig's Startup utility for BackWeb 
processes or BackWeb-enabled applications, 
such as Logitech's Desktop Messenger. 

problems lie is the first step to avoid- 
ing trouble in the first place. If you 
want to keep the overall package but 
don't want BackWeb-enabled appli- 
cations connecting to their vendors or 
downloading material to your ma- 
chine, follow the manufacturer's in- 
structions to adjust settings using 
BackWeb (normally automatic up- 
dates or system notification) and dis- 
able the relevant options in the 
management software's menus. De- 
select any BackWeb -related programs 
on the Startup tab in Msconfig to 
keep the applications from running 
when you boot up. You can also 
simply block BackWeb's Internet ac- 
cess via a software firewall (such as 
ZoneAlarm or Comodo Personal 
Firewall) with program-level controls. 

If you decide to remove BackWeb 
and its parent software, uninstall the 
entire package from the sponsoring 
manufacturer. Don't just remove 
BackWeb files and folders or allow 
system scans to disable BackWeb. Use 
Add Or Remove Programs (in the 
Windows Control Panel) or the man- 
ufacturer's instructions to perform a 
clean uninstall. 

Even well-respected companies, 
which probably aren't exposing you to 
security risks, may or may not be using 
BackWeb for purposes you appreciate. 
Find out what they're doing and make 
your own decisions, but do Logitech's 
mouse drivers really change that often? 
Or is its "maintenance" system really 
just an excuse to send you ads and sales 
pitches? You decide, but make sure 
you're making an informed decision. II 

by Gregory Anderson 

Smart Computing / October 2006 79 


Examining Errors 

by Jeff Dodd 

Problem: After upgrading her 

ViewSonic monitor and updating 

her Hallmark Card Studio software, 

a reader receives an error message 

each time she tries using the 

Hallmark software. She has tried 

uninstalling and reinstalling the 

software, but the error persists. 

Error Message: "NVIDIA OpenGL 
Driver. Driver components mismatch." 

Solution: Error messages such as this 
remind us of just how fragile a com- 
puter system is. When the reader up- 
graded her monitor and software, she 
inadvertently upset the balance within 
the system. It appears she created a 
conflict that prevents the video card 
from communicating with the Hall- 
mark Card Studio software. To resolve 
the issue, the reader needs to obtain the 
latest driver update for her Nvidia 
video card by visiting www.nvidia 
.com/content/drivers/drivers. asp. We 

also encourage her to download 
and install software updates for her 
ViewSonic monitor, Hallmark soft- 
ware, operating system, imaging- 
related hardware, and any other 
significant programs installed on the 
PC. The reader should reboot the PC 
between each installation to ensure that 
the various updates are progressing 
nicely. The issue should be resolved 
without having to reinstall the Hall- 
mark software, but it may be necessary 
if nothing else works. 

Problem: Each time a reader tries 

to check his MSN Hotmail email 

account, he receives an error message. 

However, he is able to close the error 

message and proceed to check his 

email with no further problems. 

Error Message: "Content Advisor. 

Sorry! Content Advisor will not 

allow you to see the site. This page 

may contain some or all of the 

following: the rating label on the 

page is invalid, is not recognized, 

or is not the right format. You may 

want to notify the owner of the site." 

Solution: The Content Advisor is 
a tool in Internet Explorer that 
was created to protect a user from 
harmful content. Unfortunately, the 
advisor tends to block access to a lot 
of content that is not harmful or of- 
fensive, such as the reader's Hotmail 
account. We suggest the reader re- 
solve the issue by disabling the 
Content Advisor. He can do so by 
clicking Tools and Internet Options, 
selecting the Content tab, and click- 
ing the Disable button. He may be 
prompted to enter his password to 
complete the process. 

^ ^ 


80 October 2006 / 


Examining Errors 

Problem: A reader receives an 

error message whenever he tries 

logging on to the Internet. 

Error Message: "NSIS Error. The 

installer you are trying to use is 

corrupted or incomplete. This could 

be the result of a damaged disk, a 

failed download, or a virus. You may 

want to contact the author of this 

installer to obtain a new copy. It may 

be possible to skip this check using 

the /NCRC command line switch 

(not recommended)." 

Solution: The NSIS (Nullsoft Scrip- 
table Install System; an open-source 
installer) error usually occurs during 
the process of downloading and in- 
stalling files when the active installer, 
a program that handles the installa- 
tion of another program or file, 
proves unable to process an installa- 
tion. This issue can usually be re- 
solved by downloading the file from 
an alternate location or by reinstalling 
the download management tool. 
Unfortunately, neither solution is 
likely to help this reader, who en- 
counters the message simply by going 
online. This unusual situation indi- 
cates that the reader's error is likely 
caused by something else. 

We recommend the reader per- 
form some minor housecleaning. He 
should scan his system for viruses and 
spyware using up-to-date antivirus 
and antispyware software. It wouldn't 
hurt to run ScanDisk, Disk Defrag- 
menter, and Disk Cleanup, as well. 
He also should verify that the hard 
drive has ample free space — we 

recommend a minimum of 10% of 
the total drive capacity — and revert to 
Internet Explorer if he is using a 
third-party browser. We suggest that 
he restore IE to its default settings 
by opening the Tools menu, select- 
ing Internet Options, clicking the 
Programs tab, Reset Web Settings, 
and then clicking Yes. We recom- 
mend cleaning out the browser 
cache, too. He can do so by opening 
the Tools menu, selecting Internet 
Options, and clicking the Delete Files 
button on the General page of the re- 
sulting Internet Options dialog box. 

As a last resort, the reader should 
update the Windows Installer by visit- 
/details. aspx?FamilyID=889482fc- 
5f56-4a38-b838-de776fd4138c and 
following the on-screen instructions 
to complete the installation. Many 
computer users have eliminated the 
NSIS error message simply by per- 
forming this update. We can't guar- 
antee it will resolve the reader's 
problem, but it's worth a try. 

Have questions about an error message you've seen? Send us your message (, and 

we'll try to decipher it. Tell us what version of Windows you're using, give the full text of the error message, 

and provide as many details in your explanation as possible. Volume prohibits individual replies. 

Smart Computing / October 2006 81 


Fast Fixes 

Security Update 
For Windows 2000/XP 

Problem: Microsoft has discovered 
a vulnerability in Windows 2000/XP's 
DHCP Client service that an attacker 
could use to take control of your PC. 

Resolution: Download and install 
Microsoft's 604KB update (Win2000) 
or 955KB update (for WinXP). Visit, type 
KB914388 in the Search field, and click 
the Go button. From the search results, 
click Security Update For Windows 
2000 (KB914388) or Security Update 
For Windows XP (KB914388). Click 
the Download button in the upper-left 
corner of the Quick Details section. 
Save the file to your hard drive. After 
the download is complete, double-click 
the file (Windows2000-KB914388-x86- 
ENU.exe or WindowsXP-KB9 14388- 
x86-ENU.exe) to start the installation. 

Security Update 
For Windows 2000/XP 

Problem: Microsoft uncovered a 
flaw in Win2000/XP that could let an 
attacker execute code on your PC. 

Resolution: Download and install a 
601KB file (Win2000) or a 709KB file 
(WinXP). Go to 
/downloads and type KB917159 in the 
Search field. Click Go. Click the link for 
Security Update For Windows 2000 
(KB917159) or Security Update For 
Windows XP (KB917159) and click the 
Download button. After you save the 
file to your hard drive, double- click the 
file (Windows 2000-KB917159-x86- 
ENU.exe or WindowsXP-KB917159- 
x86-ENU.exe) to install the patch. 
Security Update For Office 2003 

Problem: Microsoft identified a 
problem in Office 2003 that could let an 
attacker run arbitrary code on your PC. 

Resolution: Download and install 
the 339KB patch from Microsoft's 
Download Center ( 
com/downloads). Type KB9 14455 in 
the Search field and click Go. Click 
the Security Update For Office 2003 
(KB914455) link. Click the Download 
button in the upper-left corner of the 
blue box in the center of the screen. 
After you download and save the file 
to your hard drive, double-click the 
file (office2003-KB914455-FullFile- 
ENU.exe) to install it on your system. 
Security Update For Excel 2003 

Problem: Microsoft has discovered 
several security holes in Excel 2003 
that could increase user privileges and 
make the system susceptible to attack. 

Resolution: Download and install 
the 5.1MB file that Microsoft issued. 
Go to Microsoft's Download Center 
(, type 
KB918419 in the Search field, and click 
Go. Click Security Update For Excel 
2003 (KB918419). Click the Download 
button in the upper-left corner of the 
Quick Details section. After you down- 
load the file to your computer, just 
double-click the file (office2003- 
KB918419-FullFile-ENU.exe) to install 
the patch. 
Adobe Reader 7.0.8 for Windows 

Problem: Adobe discovered several 
security and performance issues, in- 
cluding frequent crashes, in Adobe 
Reader for Windows. 

Resolution: Download and install 
v.7.0.8, an 8MB update for Adobe 
Reader. Visit 
port/downloads and select Adobe 
Reader - Windows from the Product 
menu and click Go. Under Updates/ 
Programs, click Adobe Reader 7.0.8 
Update - Multiple Languages. If you 

currently have v.7.0.6 or v.7.0.7, click 
the Proceed To Download button and 
then click the Download Now button. 
Save the file to your hard drive. After the 
download is complete, double-click the 
file (AdbeRdrUpd708_all_incr.exe). If 
you currently have v.7.0.5 or an earlier 
release of Reader, go to www.adobe 
to download the full version of Adobe 
Reader 7.0.8, which is a 27.7MB file. 
Click the Download button and click 
Run. If you see a Security Warning 
dialog box, click Yes. 

Fix Of The Month 

Update For Word 2002 

Problem: You can't open or save 
Microsoft Word files in the new 
Open XML format. 

Resolution: Download and install 
this 5MB update, which will provide 
Word 2002 with the framework it 
needs to support a compatibility 
pack with Open XML. The update 
also provides some improvements to 
RTF (Rich Text Format) support. 
Go to 
loads and type KB9 17347 in the 
Search field and click Go. Click the 
Update For Word 2002 (KB917347) 
link. To download this file, you will 
need to prove that you have a legal 
copy of Microsoft Word installed. 
To proceed with the validation 
process, click the Continue button 
in the upper-left corner of the Quick 
Details box. Follow the instructions 
on the screen to validate your soft- 
ware. After validation, you will see 
the download page again. Click the 
Download button and save the file 
to your hard drive. To install the up- 
date, double-click the file (offlcexp- 

www.m loads 

82 October 2006 / 

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Need help with your hardware or software? Looking for simple 
explanations on technical subjects? Send us your questions! 

Get straight answers to your technical questions from Smart Computing. Send your questions, 
along with a phone and/or fax number, so we can call you if necessary, to: Smart Computing 
Q&A, P.O. Box 85380, Lincoln, NE 68501, or email us at q& Please in- 
clude all version numbers for the software about which you're inquiring, operating system infor- 
mation, and any relevant information about your system. (Volume prohibits individual replies.) 


QMy BIOS (Basic Input/Output System) 
Setup booklet refers to "S.M.A.R.T. for 
Hard Disks," a utility that "monitors your 
disk status to predict hard disk failure," pro- 
viding "an opportunity to move data from a 
hard disk that is going to fail to a safe place 
before the hard disk becomes offline." I have 
always run this option Disabled, which 
I think is the default, but have now enabled 
it to see what happens. How useful is 
S.M.A.R.T. for the average user, and what do 
I need to do to use it? 

A S.M.A.R.T. (Self-Monitoring, Analysis, 
and Reporting Technology) has been 
available on hard drives for several years, 
and when used properly, it can be a valuable 
asset in safeguarding the data you store on 
your computer. As your booklet describes, 
S.M.A.R.T. -enabled drives provide a series of 
metrics about the health of your hard drive. 

The goal of S.M.A.R.T. is to provide an in- 
sight into various performance and environ- 
mental parameters of your hard drive. These 
parameters can help indicate the likelihood of 
drive failure; in geek terms this is known as 
predictable failure. Much like a car engine 
that runs hot due to a faulty radiator, a drive 
that is operating out of its comfort zone will 
be more prone to failure over time. 

Among the metrics that S.M.A.R.T-enabled 
drives provide are Spin-Up time (how long 

your drive takes to go from zero rpm [revolu- 
tions per minute] to full speed), Power-On 
Hours (how long your drive has been in 
a powered-on state), and temperature. 
Depending on the drive manufacturer, there 
can be over 20 unique metrics catalogued. 

Utilizing the data from a S.M.A.R.T. drive 
requires a utility that can query the drive's 
controller and present the data in a user- 
friendly fashion. In addition, you need to en- 
able S.M.A.R.T. in your computer's BIOS. 
One of the better S.M.A.R.T. utilities we've 
used is HDD Health ( 
HDD Health is a free utility that works with 
most versions of Windows and can predict 
hard drive failure. Unfortunately, S.M.A.R.T. 
can not predict all drive failures; there are 
many instances where a drive will fail sud- 
denly without any prior indication. However, 
S.M.A.R.T. drives can help warn you of an 
impending drive failure due to wear and tear, 
hopefully in time for you to back up your data 
before the drive goes kaput. Despite the avail- 
ability of S.M.A.R.T. drives, a prudent user 
will back up his hard drive on a regular basis. 

Enabling S.M.A.R.T. reporting can some- 
times have an adverse impact on your drive's 
performance, though the effects vary due to 
the differing implementations among the var- 
ious drive manufacturers. Our recommenda- 
tion is to give up a little performance for a 
wealth of prescience. 

,1 am using Windows XP Home and 
Outlook Express 6 on a Dell 8200 desk- 
top. I correspond with a friend who helps out 
with a nonprofit organization. Our work re- 
quires identification of information in our 
membership database. To easily recognize the 
keywords, I underline them. To my surprise, I 

looked at my sent message in my Sent folder, 
and the keywords were no longer underlined. I 
then clicked the paper-clip in the message's 
upper- right address bar and clicked the URL 
contained there. My message opened in a 
browser window with the keywords under- 
lined. However, the email's recipient also 

84 October 2006 / 



informed me that the message arrived with the 
keywords not underlined. Can you tell me how 
to insert underlines that will remain displayed 
in both my message in the Sent Folder and in 
the recipient's copy? 

A Emails can be sent in one of three for- 
mats: plain text, rich text, and HTML 
(Hypertext Markup Language). Plain text 
messages appear with minimal formatting, 
and using plain text helps minimize the size of 
emails. Emails formatted with HTML can have 
embedded images and sound clips, and they 
often look like a Web page. HTML formatting 
typically results in a larger-sized email. In be- 
tween these two extremes is rich text, in which 
you can do fancy formatting of your email's 
text, such as experimenting with fonts, styles, 
and color. An email with rich text is much 
smaller in size than an HTML-formatted 
email, yet it still has a bit of style to it. 

There are valid reasons for using each 
of these formats when sending email. 
Unfortunately, using multiple message for- 
mats can cause problems, as you've experi- 
enced. The recipient needs to have an email 
client that is capable of properly displaying the 
format you've selected. Most modern email 
clients can display all three formats without 
any problems. Secondly, the email client has to 
be configured to display your message in the 
appropriate format. Many email clients have 
this feature disabled by default and display 

messages in plain text format regardless of the 
message's original formatting. 

The option to underline text in an email is 
only supported via HTML formatting. We 
were unable to replicate your exact experi- 
ence, but our hunch is that Outlook Express 
might be slightly corrupted. 

To find out for sure, we recommend you try 
a different email client, for example, Mozilla 
Thunderbird ( Available as 
a free download, Thunderbird has most of the 
functionality of Outlook Express. Using 
Thunderbird, try composing an email with 
underlined text and send it to your friend. If 
he receives it with the correct formatting, you 
know that the problem lies at your end, not 
his. The reason we ask you to do this is be- 
cause his mail client may not be configured to 
display HTML- formatted emails. 

If the problem lies with your friend's email 
client, he'll need to either configure his client 
to display your emails properly, or he'll need 
to try a different email client. If Outlook 
Express is the guilty party, we recommend 
running Windows Update to make sure that 
you have the latest patches. 

If you are unable to get Outlook Express 
working properly, and if you can successfully 
send your emails using Thunderbird, we rec- 
ommend keeping Thunderbird. It's a stable, 
full- featured email client that is largely im- 
mune to the plethora of viruses that have been 
known to infect systems via Outlook Express. 


QI am using WinXP. When I press CTRL- 
ALT-DELETE, the Windows Security 
dialog box opens, as it should, but the Task 
Manager is inactive. How do I find my Task 
Manager and restore it? 

A If you're comfortable editing the 
Registry, fixing this is straightforward. 
First, be sure to make a backup copy of 
your Registry in case you make an error. 
To do so, click Start and Run, type regedit, 
and click OK. This will launch the Reg- 
istry Editor. Next, highlight My Computer, 
select Registry, and then Export Registry 

File. You'll want to copy this backup in a 
safe location. 

Next, navigate to HKEY_CURRENT_ 
USER\Software | Microsoft\Windows\Current 
Version\Policies\System. In the right pane, 
double-click DisableTaskMgr. In the Value 
data box, type (zero) and then click OK. If 
DisableTaskMgr isn't listed, right- click in the 
pane and select New, DWord Value. Name 
this DisableTaskMgr, leaving it set at (zero). 
Restart Windows, and the Task Manager 
should be available. 

The only exception to this is if your com- 
puter is on a network that has Group Policy in 

Smart Computing / October 2006 85 



place. Group Policy allows a system adminis- 
trator to enforce policies per user and per 
group, including disabling features such as the 
Task Manager. If this is the case, as soon as 
your computer reboots, Group Policy will be 
applied to your computer and you'll be un- 
able to use the Task Manager. 

If you are on a managed network that has 
blocked access to the Task Manager, you'll 
probably be unable to make the Registry edits 
we've described. Instead, find out who manages 
your network and ask them if a Group Policy is 
in place that blocks access to the Task Manager, 
and if so, see if you can be exempted from it. 


QWhen I attempt to install iTunes on my 
Windows XP Media Center PC, the pro- 
gram seems to install successfully. After 
clicking finish, I invariably get a message from 
Microsoft saying that an error has been en- 
countered, and iTunes must close. Thus, it is 
impossible for me to open the program. I 
have tried to install and reinstall many times, 
and the same thing happens every time. Help! 

A First, make sure that your PC is up-to-date 
on all of your patches from Microsoft's 
Windows Update. Next, uninstall iTunes and 

uninstall QuickTime, as well. You can down- 
load the standalone version of QuickTime at 

Once QuickTime has been installed, go to 
Apple's Web site and make sure that 
QuickTime is working properly. You can 
view a variety of movie trailers in Quick- 
Time format at 
Next, download iTunes from www. apple 
.com/itunes/download and install it. This 
should alleviate the startup errors you've 
been experiencing. 


QIs it possible to have two modems in- 
stalled on one computer? I would like to 
use one for a dial-up Internet connection on 
one POTS line and use a second modem for 
dial-up contact manager software (such as 
ACT!) on a separate POTS line. If it is pos- 
sible, how could this be accomplished, and are 
there any "gotchas"? 

A Of course you can have two POTS (Plain 
Old Telephone Service) lines coming 
into your computer and two modems. Back 
when people still made extensive use of fax 
services (instead of email), it wasn't un- 
common to have one modem for dialing out 
(as in your contact manager) and another for 
incoming and outgoing faxes. 

But your life would be a lot simpler if you 
could install some form of broadband Internet 
connection. Both cable- and DSL (Digital 
Subscriber Line) -based connections free up 
your phone line for either data or voice 

communication while you browse. Two-way 
satellite also accomplishes this task. Unfortu- 
nately, not all of us live in areas where any 
form of broadband is available, so your solu- 
tion (two dial-up modems) is the only other 
way. As for gotchas, the woods are full of 'em. 
Don't even think about trying this setup 
without having a nice, long chat with a knowl- 
edgeable dealer and/or the dealer's technician 
to make sure you don't run into conflicts. 

Your modems are most likely going to be 
internal, and will use software drivers and 
your processor for most of their functions 
(so-called "Winmodems"), and will plug into 
a PCI (Peripheral Component Interconnect) 
slot. In this case, Windows' management of 
how PCI-based devices share IRQs (interrupt 
request lines) may let you install both without 
conflicts. If you have an older PC or you're 
not running a recent version of Windows, 
however, your plug-n-play devices may turn 
out to be "plug-n-pray." 

86 October 2006 / 



Using two external modems is another 
(more expensive) way of playing this game, 
but unless your PC is equipped with two ex- 
ternal serial ports (or you purchase an up- 
grade card to provide these ports), conflicts 
will raise their horrid heads again. 

Telecommunication into and out of a PC 
takes place through COM ports (communi- 
cation ports). By default there are four COM 
ports labeled COM1, COM2, COM3, and 
COM4. The four COM ports may be as- 
signed to external serial ports or to devices 
(such as modems). The COM ports are also 
assigned to IRQs. 

For reasons known only to the original de- 
signers of the IBM PC, the four COM ports 
were assigned to share two IRQs. By default, 
COM1 and COM3 share IRQ 4, while COM2 
and COM4 share IRQ 3. Just in case you're 
counting, this is not, according to Intel 

engineers we've consulted, a restriction of the 
processors found in those original PCs or their 
descendents — it is strictly a design specifica- 
tion from IBM which is still followed to this 
day to support "legacy" devices. (Before mice 
connected through PS2 ports or USB, they 
used external serial ports, and this was the 
biggest source of the question, "Why won't my 
mouse and modem work together?") 

One more potential gotcha, and then we're 
finished. If your applications can be told to 
use a specific modem in your system and not 
just the first one found, you should be able to 
keep your contact manager from beating your 
Internet dial-up program to death (or vice 
versa) over the same modem. Remember 
what we said about long, meaningful chats 
with a dealer? Take your dealer a cup of coffee 
when you go (and maybe a donut) because it 
could be a long afternoon. 


QI have a Dell system running WinXP 
connected to an HP All-in-One 2210 se- 
ries inkjet printer. Recently, I've had a 
problem. When I want to print from an email 
or other application, the printer always prints 
two copies. I have to cancel the print job 
when I hear the second copy beginning. Can 
you offer any suggestions? 

A Normally, using any Windows-based 
printer, you can set the number of print 
copies to a default value through settings in 
the Windows printer driver. Your HP All-in- 
One 2210 printer has an added dimension 
with an extensive front-panel menu system 
that lets you use it as a copier, scanner, fac- 
simile machine, and photo printer — whether 
it is connected to a computer or not. 

To change the default copy count in the 
Windows software driver, open the HP 
Director software on the computer by 
clicking Start, All Programs, HP, and HP 
Director. In the HP Director, click Settings 
and Copy Settings. Enter the number of 
copies you want to print in the Copies field. 
In your case, you want to make sure this 
number is set at 1 (not 2). 

That leaves only two other sources for 
copy count information: a hardwired setting 
in the printer itself (see below) or a tempo- 
rary setting you establish through the soft- 
ware you're using at the time (email, word 
processor, calendar, etc.). This temporary 
setting is usually found on the first page of 
the application's print dialog box, but exactly 
where on the page will be determined by 
each application — you may have to hunt for 
it. This temporary setting should always 
override the default setting. 

To reset the 2210's internal settings to its 
default settings, do the following: Turn off 
the unit using the power button located on 
the unit's front panel. Unplug the power 
cord from the back of the unit, plug the 
power cord back into the unit, and then turn 
the power on again. 

If you've checked the Windows driver, 
the software's print settings, and the 
printer's internal settings, and you still 
have problems, you can go to welcome 
to have a live chat with an HP technical 
advisor. The service is available 24 hours 
a day. 

Smart Computing / October 2006 87 





Answers to users' most common questions about Laptops 

p A ^v How long should my laptop's bat- 
l/\ V^tery last? When is it time to replace 
it? What can I do to extend my battery's life? 

The working life of a battery pack usually ex- 
ceeds 500 to 600 complete charge/discharge cy- 
cles. If you run your laptop using a mix of AC 
and battery power, the battery will typically last 
up to three years — maybe longer. Always refer 
to the laptop's documentation for specific bat- 
tery life and replacement recommendations. 

As a rechargeable battery wears out, its 
charge time decreases. For example, the new 
battery that used to be able to power your 
laptop for six hours may now only provide 
three to four hours of running time. Many 
modern laptops provide a battery monitor ap- 
plet that runs in your System Tray, reporting 
on the amount of charge time remaining. If 
you notice short charge times while using a 
fully charged battery, the battery itself may be 
wearing out. 

You can extend the working life of your bat- 
tery pack by reducing the number of charge cy- 
cles. For example, run the laptop from its AC 
adapter when you use it at home or at the of- 
fice. When you use the battery, utilize all of the 
laptop's power-saving features to get the most 
time from every charge and run the battery 
until it's almost exhausted before recharging it. 
p A >^v My laptop display and keyboard 
l/\ v^get terribly dusty. What is the best 
way to keep them clean? 

Because of their mobility, regularly cleaning 
laptops is very important. Always turn the 
laptop off beforehand. Start by using a can of 
compressed air to blow out any dust and de- 
bris from between the keys. Next, wipe the 
keyboard with a clean, lint- free cloth damp- 
ened with water. This will remove any dirt 
and finger oils from the keys. LCD panels are 
very delicate, so clean the LCD with a dry, 
lint-free cloth. If the panel is stained with 
residue, you can dampen the cloth with water 
and gently wipe the residue from the panel's 

surface. Never spray water directly on an 
LCD, and never use cleaners — even mild 
household cleaners can damage the display. 
p A ^i How do I know when my laptop's 
l/\ V^ hard drive is about to fail, and what 
should I do to replace it? 

There is no clear indication that a hard drive 
is about to fail, but there may be several 
warning signs that trouble is on the horizon. 
Excessive drive noise (such as loud clatters or 
whirring noises) can be one common warning 
sign. Other warning signs may include unusual 
read/write errors to the drive, often leading to 
the BSOD (Blue Screen of Death), in which the 
computer freezes and the screen turns blue. 

If the laptop is under warranty, contact the 
laptop's manufacturer for service. Some man- 
ufacturers may honor the warranty for a mar- 
ginal drive if the technician agrees that the 
system is unusable or a total failure is immi- 
nent, but other manufacturers may not agree 
to replace the drive until it actually fails. If the 
laptop is not under warranty, contact your 
nearest full- service PC repair center such as 
CompUSA or Best Buy. They may be able to 
arrange a depot repair, though the task may 
take several weeks and cost you a fee. Always 
get a price and time estimate in writing before 
giving permission for a repair job. Remember 
to back up your data before dropping the 
laptop off for service. 

p A /~\ The bottom of my laptop becomes 
l/\ V^ extremely hot. How can I prevent 
the heat from damaging the laptop? 

Laptops are ventilated from underneath, so 
anything that blocks the intakes will cause the 
unit to run hot. Use the laptop on a smooth, 
flat surface to keep the intakes clear. For addi- 
tional cooling, there are numerous powered 
cooling enhancers, such as the Targus Note- 
book Chill Mat ($29.99; 
Remember that many cooling pads draw power 
from the laptop's USB port; such devices may 
use up your battery's charge fairly quickly. II 

88 October 2006 / 

Action Editor 

Are you having trouble 
finding a product or 
getting adequate service 
from a manufacturer? If 
so, we want to help solve 
your problem. Send us 
a description of the 
product you're seeking or 
the problem you're having 
with customer service. In 
billing disputes, include 
relevant information 
(such as account numbers 
or screen names for online 
services) and photocopies 
of checks. Include your 
phone number in case we 
need to contact you. 

Letters may be edited for 
length and clarity; 
volume prohibits indi- 
vidual replies. 

Alienware Invoice, Freeware 
& Roxio Manuals Revisited 

Write to: 
Action Editor 
P.O. Box 85380 
Lincoln, NE 68501-5380 

Or send email to: 


Or fax us at: 

/ recently purchased an Area-Si desktop computer 
from Alienware. The company sent me an email 
that was supposed to include an attached PDF 
(Portable Document Format) of my invoice, but 
there is nothing attached and there are no links I 
can click to view it I have tried calling Alienware 
four times to resolve the issue, but no one there has 
been helpful. One representative said Alienware 
would resend the invoice, but I have yet to receive 
it. Can you help me out? 

Name and location 
withheld upon request 

In this space, Alienware's customer service 
has been taking a beating as of late. Despite 
this user's difficulties, we contacted Alienware 
and got a response the following business day. 
Alienware immediately sent a new email with 
the invoice as an attached JPEG (Joint 
Photographic Experts Group) file. The 
reader contacted us to tell us that he 
received the email and the associ- 
ated attachments. 

In the August 2006 issue, Smart 
Computing reviewed Blue Orb's 
ScanDefrag a free utility that adds 
system utilities from Microsoft and 
Norton to the Windows startup routine. 
I downloaded the freeware from Blue Orb's 
Web site and installed the application based on 
your recommendation. After restarting my laptop, I 
couldn't boot back into Windows. I tried to boot 
into Safe Mode, but that didn't work either. I finally 
managed to load the Last Good Configuration and 
restart Windows XP Home. Once there, I immedi- 
ately uninstalled ScanDefrag. I sent an email de- 
tailing my problems to Blue Orb using the email 
support link, but I have yet to hear back. 

Bill Feeley 
Clinton Township, Mich. 

We contacted Blue Orb and received a re- 
sponse within hours. Bill and a Blue Orb rep ex- 
changed several emails to figure out what went 
wrong. Bill agreed to give ScanDefrag another 
shot and reports that things seem to be running 
smoothly now. Blue Orb couldn't explain the 
problem with Bill's first attempt, but the com- 
pany took the time to walk him through the 
process of installing and using the software. II 

Roxio Manuals 

In the June 2006 issue of Smart Computing, 
we ran a letter from Ronald La Rue stating 
that, despite our claim in a March 2006 
roundup of media-creation suites, his copy of 
Roxio Easy Media Creator 8 didn't include the 
printed manual we'd mentioned in our article. 
He contacted Roxio to request a printed 
manual, but was informed that Roxio has 
never distributed paper manuals. When we 
called Roxio, we were informed that paper 
manuals have always shipped with Easy Media 
Creator. We managed to get Ronald a printed 
manual, but several readers wrote that they, 
too, had a copy of Easy Media Creator sans 
the printed manual. 

We contacted our Roxio rep, who verified 
that the boxed versions of Easy Media Creator 
included printed manuals. Our contact also 
consulted with Roxio's Customer Care Team, 
who informed her that it hadn't received any 
complaints about missing manuals. After sev- 
eral emails, we determined that the mystery of 
the missing manuals was the result of a simple 
miscommunication. Roxio has always shipped 
printed manuals with the boxed-retail version 
of Easy Media Creator. Roxio offers a PDF 
manual for all other versions, including those 
bundled with computer hardware, down- 
loaded from Roxio's Web site, or purchased as a 
backup CD from Roxio's Web site. If you call to 
request a manual, Roxio's customer support 
reps will only offer to send you a PDF version. I 

Smart Computing / October 2006 89 

Tales From The Trenches 

Keeping It Real 

Ineed some help. No, not the kind provided by the nice 
folks in white coats, but if something doesn't change, I 
might get to that point. I can't seem to make Real Player 
run reliably. I know that this isn't news to many of you. In fact, 
I don't know of anyone who actually likes Real Player. But, as 
with dental floss and other necessary evils, there must be some 
good reason we all have to use it. I mean, someone somewhere 
finds it efficient, reliable, and easy to use. Right? 

I don't know how many times I've uninstalled and rein- 
stalled that accursed application, just to get a couple days' 
use out of it before I have to go through the process all over 
again. Real Player al- 
ready ranks up there in 
my pantheon (along 
with Adobe Reader) of 
annoying productivity- 
draining programs you 
just can't live without, 
but this is ridiculous. 
The constant updates, 
the insistent background 
processes, and the pro- 
gram's general instabi- 
lity have inspired my 
loathing for years. If it 
weren't for streaming 
video being so darn 
useful, this piece of 
junk would have died 
long ago. And I try 
to go without, opting 
for Windows Media 
or other streaming for- 
mats where possible. But 
every once in a while, 
you run into a situation 

where you don't have a choice, such as a recent online graduate 
class where Real is the only lecture stream available. I had to de- 
cide: support my wife's pursuit of an advanced degree with atten- 
dant technology struggles, or forgo my half of the resulting raises 
and buy my way out of it (dedicated system, full-time tech sup- 
port, new keys to lock myself in the closet when things go 
wrong)? It was a tougher decision than you might think. 

I installed the free version of RealPlayer after avoiding the 
inevitable on my new system for a few blissful months. I did a 
custom install, not wanting to let Real dominate my Desktop 
with links and "offers," hijack all my media formats, or take 
over all my background resources. And, of course, it worked 
perfectly at first. After a couple days, though, the video plug-in 
wouldn't work (though audio was fine). We had to launch the 

full Player from the browser's video window in order to get the 
video feed. And I discovered that other video formats weren't 
operational at all — no online World Cup highlight reels for 
me. And eventually, video stopped working altogether. After 
doing some searching online and checking all my video settings 
(sufficient color depth, current drivers, proper settings, correct 
codecs — all affirmative), I threw up my hands and tried the de- 
featist way out. I uninstalled everything that even smelted like 
Real Player, downloaded the package one more time, and in- 
stalled the same thing (with the same options) all over again. 
Guess what? I got the same cycle. It worked fine for a while and 

then gradually became 
more and more useless, 
though never ceasing 
to run its scheduled 
background process or 
pop up ads while and 
after we ran the pro- 
gram. Rinse, repeat, 
ad infinitum. 

So where am I now? 
I've figured out that if I 
let Real Player take over 
responsibility for every 
conceivable media type 
known to machine, the 
program keeps work- 
ing longer. And if you 
let the constant back- 
ground processes run, 
the program runs more 
reliably. In other words, 
if you let this child have 
his way in every partic- 
ular, he'll play much 
nicer. Now, I'm no par- 
enting expert, but that seems no way to run a PC household. 
Are there any words of wisdom from those of you who've 
tamed this strong-willed miscreant? Have you found reliable 
alternatives that play Real media streams? Or do I just need to 
stop whining and resign myself to a fate of uninstalling, rein- 
stalling, and waiting for the cycle to begin again? II 

by Gregory Anderson 

Gregory Anderson is a regular contributor to Smart Computing and 
several other technology publications. He keeps a sharp eye (with the hel\ 
of thick glasses) on computing trends and enjoys working with geeks of at 
stripes — most of the time. Reach Greg with your own stories of personal 
tech support provision 

90 October 2006 / 


Search The Tech 
Support Center! 

Computers, printers, and other technology are won- 
derfully helpful tools — when they're 
working properly. But there's nothing 
more frustrating than a stalled 
printer or an operating system 
that won't, well, operate! Even 
more frustrating is not know- 
ing where to find answers. 

Now it's easier than ever to 
find the information you need 
by searching SmartComputing 
.corn's Tech Support Center. Sim- 
ply enter a word in the search box, and you'll find infor- 
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Accessing this information is simple; here's how: 

1 Go to and click into the Tech 
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2 Enter a subject in the search box. Avoid using words like 
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Search The Tech Support Center 

How To Use This Seal eh: 

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camera below 1 .■ ■■ 

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Enter a subject to search l>y: 


Taskbar Tip | 

To bring an errant Taskbar back into the fold, move your 
pointer to the bottom of the screen until it turns into a double- 
headed arrow— you should then be able to grab onto the top 

Some companies with 
toll-free numbers 
have clever sayings 
that correspond with 
their phone num- 
bers — not us. Among 
others, the Smart 
Computing Tech 
Support line number 
(800/368-8304) spells 
out EMU V. FOG or 
DOT T. DOG. Clever 
names for cartoon 
characters, perhaps, 
but neither will likely 
help you remember the number for a computer magazine. 


The Internet Archive 
Wayback Machine 
/web/web.php) provides 
a fun look-see back in 
time. Check out the 
humble roots of all sorts 
of sites, including that of 
your favorite computer 
magazine, circa 2000. 

IVrdiw ' ; "M KiHh™m 


Computin g. &^ 


• Pfcfc » A I'tldv Ti pi' iH'liul: >»Kk! Mm M 
- ' '■*'* Mil < h m Hiinv i .-'if n » riV.'j n 

O "J m'atii Hi I?<vh uwrt ahull... " 

1 1» HfHiMji t/<wMr irt*,." 

The next time your PC leaves 
you in the depths of despair 
with its unwelcome antics, 
check out our top 25 most 
frequently viewed support 
articles (click Top 25 under 
Solutions Knowledgebase). In 
early August, tweaking the 
Startup Menu, changing a de- 
fault media player, and getting 
a PC to boot topped the list. 
And even if your computer 
is on its best behavior, check 
it out for your daily dose 
of schadenfreude. 

edge of the Taskbar and pull it up. You can also accomplish this 
by pressing CTRL-ESC, ALT-Spacebar, and S. Then press the Up 
arrow key to inch the Taskbar back into place. 

SmartComputing / October 2006 91 

Editorial License 

The Gerbilization Of America 

It all started back in the '90s, as the World Wide Web for 
the first time opened up the Internet to millions of us 
who were neither academics nor engineers. By the end 
of the decade, practically everyone had a Web site. I know 
of house plants that have Web sites. ("Welcome to! My name is Doug. I'm a ficus be- 
longing to Wanda Krieglehamer of Van Nuys, Calif. 
Currently, I am dropping leaves at the rate of 
three per hour, unless the cat walks by, at 
which point my shedding increases 
dramatically. Click here to meet 
Todd, the philodendron.") 

A case in point. . . . We have 
working here an otherwise per- 
fectly normal, very intelligent 
young writer who — for rea- 
sons best known only to her- 
self — oversees a Web site 
called It's 
devoted to . . . um, gerbils. 
(You know, gerbils? They're 
little furry rodents; they look 
kind of like hamsters that've 
been on the South Beach Diet for 
a very long time. Of course, real 
pets view gerbils as nothing more 
than highly mobile snacks.) Now, this 
writer (no names, of course, but her initials 
are Kylee Dickey) operates 
on behalf of a small herd of gerbils named Pippi, 
Samantha, Hope, Maeby, and Nellie. All five of the little dar- 
lings are very cute, in a warm, fuzzy, nose-twitching, snack- 
like sort of way. 

You and I may think it's silly, but here's the thing: These 
gerbils get fan mail! When's the last time you got fan mail? 
Little kids from around the world write letters to them. They 
ask if it's true that gerbils like to take sandbaths (yes, they do), 
they ask how to tame a gerbil (I suggest a very tiny whip and 
chair), and they ask if it's OK to use pine bedding for their 
gerbils (no, because pine bedding sold in the United States 
can make a gerbil sick). And the gerbils answer the letter s\ 
Here's one from Pippi in response to a child asking about 
handling techniques: "Dear C: You can pick up most rodents 
by their tails, but not gerbils. If you tried to pick me up by my 
tail, you little brat, I'd whip around and bite your nose and 
rip it right off your smarmy little face! Then I'd run to your 
bed and vomit all over your pillow. By the way, I can get out 
of that stupid cage any time I want, you know, and sooner or 
later, you will have to sleep " [Letter edited for clarity.] 

And now, as if the proliferation of Web sites weren't bad 
enough, we have blogs. Essentially, blogs are online journals 

that cover really important issues such as politics, computers, 
literature, and the designated hitter rule. (And also some 
truly silly things such as calculus, ice hockey, and rap music.) 
I can understand the urge to blog. We all have things to 
say, and the Internet is the perfect medium: It's fast, it's 
cheap, and it doesn't care if you're an idiot. And after all, a 
blog is really nothing more than an electronic version of the 
journals written throughout history by such luminaries 
as Samuel Pepys, James Boswell, Charles Darwin 
(and several other Darwins, in fact), 
Richard Henry Dana, Henry James, 
and countless others who con- 
tributed greatly to science, 
literature, and . . . well, 
journal-ism. (Although we 
should probably keep in mind 
that many of those people — 
though not Henry James — 
could actually write, of 
course. This no longer seems 
to be a prerequisite.) For 
whatever reason, people have 
always written journals and 
diaries and we have always 
hungered to read them. 
But, as with Web sites a decade 
ago, it's gotten out of hand; everyone 
now has a blog. (My wife began the 
decade as a confirmed technophobe; she 
now has three blogs.) The Internet is being 
"blogged down" (so to speak) by millions of people inces- 
santly journaling about everything from rock collecting to 
rock music to Knute Rockne. But it doesn't stop there. All 
of these bloggers include in their blogs links to other blogs 
they happen to like. Thus, checking one blog leads to a 
myriad of other blogs, each of which — naturally enough — 
includes links to still more blogs. You have to follow all of 
these links, of course. What if one of them went to some- 
thing interesting and you missed out? (Sure, the odds are 
against it, but it could happen.) 

Where will it all end? Between blogs, cell phones, email, 
text messaging, and the rest, millions of people are commu- 
nicating like mad; it's a veritable communicative frenzy. I 
wonder if anyone is actually saying anything. II 

by Rod Scher 

Rod Scher is a former software developer and a recovering English 
teacher. He's also the publication editor of Smart Computing and 
will no doubt continue in that position until such time as his boss 
reads this column. Contact Rod at 

92 October 2006 / 

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